I ask Jane if she liked it when Martha pinched her

 Magaly Ohika, artist and teacher, 

Here's what happened.

Jane sits in circle clutching her arm, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Martha pinched my arm,” sobs Jane. (Martha wants Jane to move over.)

“Did you like it?” I ask. 

“No,” replies Jane.

I get up and go over to Jane and invite Martha to join us. (I attend to the hurt one first.)

I get on my knees with both girls in front facing each other. I whisper in Jane's ear, “Tell her, ‘Stop! I don’t like it when you pinch my arm.’” I emphasize the words, "Stop, I don't like it".

Jane looks at Martha and says the words. 

“Jane, tell her what you want her to do,” I say. I speak with softness, slow and clear. I help by giving Jane the words to say. I whisper in her ear, “Say, 'Martha, ask me to move over.'” 

She says that.

I scoot over and whisper into Martha’s ear, “Look at Jane and say, ‘I hear you.’”
“I hear you,” says Martha. I continue whispering in her ear, “Say, ‘I’m squished, I need more room. I’m sorry I hurt your arm.’”
Martha tells Jane, and they go back to their place. After circle, I see them doing an activity together.

I watch kids pinch, hit, bite, yell, slap, or thump a friend on the head in response to upset. That’s developmentally normal (though irritating). When physically hurting behavior happens, I think of it as helpful information and use it to teach a new relating skill. If Martha was my age, she’d probably say something like, “I’m squished and need more room, can you move over?” and she’d have a good chance of saying it with a confident, kind face. Without experience or knowing what to do, she is more likely to pinch.

Asking “do you like it?” immediately helps Jane focus on her own feelings rather than on the pincher, and connect with her empowering abilities. I read about why it is important to ask the “did you like it” question in Becky Bailey’s book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (94).

Starr's House, 2012. Names of children changed.