there is no hitting in preschool

We’ve had a little epidemic of hitting with my lovelies.  One boy does it “because he was in my way” but really it’s because he’s got sensory issues and can’t handle it when kids are too close to him.  Which is all the time in our tiny classroom!  One girl does it because she has as-yet-unidentified special needs and is extremely impulsive.  So now some of the other kids are hitting and pushing, too.

I’m trying desperately to teach everyone what to do if you bump into or hurt someone by accident:

I came up with these three phrases to deal with all the kids who got hurt and got angry, but couldn’t see that it wasn’t on purpose.  Most of my kids don’t know what “by accident” and “on purpose” even mean.  So this is what we learn to say to make people feel better.  It works once they learn it, but now I’m in the stage of having to teach and reteach it each day.


7 thoughts on “there is no hitting in preschool

    • (New-ish reader, first time commenter. I enjoy your blog!)

      The script I use in my class is, “Oops, I’m sorry! Are you okay?” I think it’s important that the offending child state clearly to the victim that he or she hadn’t hit/pushed/bumped into/knocked over the other child out of anger. They understand accidents…spilled your milk? Oops, an accident. Get paper towels and clean it up. Knocked the basket of crayons off the table? Oops, an accident. Pick up the crayons from the floor and put them back in the basket. When we have accidents, we fix it. When we accidentally hurt a friend, we fix it by apologizing and making sure the friend is all right. So, basically, in my class we use “Oops” as shorthand for “It was an accident,” but it’s the same idea.

  1. As a former PreKindergarten and Nursery teacher I can appreciate your concern for positive social development. Here is an idea to show “on purpose” or “by accident.” Using dominoes, set up two columns, then demonstrate on purpose by pushing or knocking the dominoes down. Then for the accident, use a toy vehicle that comes too close to the dominoes. Discuss each scenario with your students. Your phrases are very appropriate.

  2. I love this! So simple,but so powerful. I am going to “borrow” this idea for my kindergarten class. I’m always telling the kids these things, but it is nice to have it up on display like that. Great idea!

  3. sunflower, I use the “by accident” part because I want to introduce my students to the idea of intentionality. If I don’t teach that specifically, then when someone bumps into them or knocks over their block tower by accident, they will always assume it was on purpose to be mean, and then lash out. The kid who did the bumping will be outraged at being hit for no reason (as they see it) and then might hit back.

    Some of my kids come from homes or neighborhoods where there is a lot of lashing out on purpose, and a lot of aggressive, mean behavior. That’s stressful. I would like my kids to understand that there is another way.

    If they learn that sometimes things happen by accident, they will be able to stay calm, and the problem can get resolved quickly. I do a lot of modeling — if I accidentally bump someone with my foot in the meeting area (the kids in the front row are pretty close to me), I make a big deal of saying, “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to kick you. It was an accident. Are you okay?” and the class can see the kid I’m talking to smile and nod.

    • I guess I understand about the intentionality – but to me, the bottom line is always that a person say, “I’m sorry,” and/or “can I help you?” because that those are the most crucial responses to the experience and both of those sentiments work whether it was on purpose or by accident. I want my kids to learn that they respond to their peers – and if I work on the relationships between my students, I won’t have any “on purpose” issues. I don’t want my kids to have to make judgments about whether something is “on purpose” or by “accident” regardless of their home lives.

      • You’re right. And one of the important corollaries is that even if a push or hit comes on purpose, that doesn’t mean that the victim gets to push or hit back. That IS the way things go in their homes and neighborhoods, but I want my kids to know how to handle aggression appropriately.

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