This Hospital Worker Should Be Ashamed of His ‘Comforting’ Words to a Girl Who Was Punched by a Classmate

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 17.04.25When a child is frightened and injured, it is natural to want to cheer him or her up and lighten the mood. But a hospital employee in Ohio tried to brighten the day of a 4-year-old girl who had been hit so hard that she required stitches by playing off the attack as youthful flirting, and that is 100 percent Not OK.

Merritt Smith of Columbus, Ohio, posted a photo to Facebook of her adorable 4-year-old daughter, Jodi. Jodi is very sweet, but the photo is heartbreaking, because a classmate hit her in the face so hard she needed stitches. That should never happen to anyone, and Jodi is just four years old. The poor thing looks sad and hurt and bewildered by the experience, as anyone would be. The light in the photo glints off of a tear in the corner of her eye. Anyone who saw her would want to help her, but in an attempt to cheer her up an employee at the hospital reportedly told Jodi, “I bet he likes you,” and that is completely unacceptable.

Justifiably outraged, Smith posted a photo of Jodi’s wounded cheek to Facebook, writing:

“‘I bet he likes you.’
Dear man at the registration desk at Children’s hospital, l’m positive that you didn’t think that statement through. As soon as I heard it I knew that is where it begins. That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior.”

She’s right. It is unacceptable to tell a 4-year-old girl that being hit by a boy is in any way a good thing. “He hit you because he likes you.” That is deeply fucked up. This 4-year-old does not need to be told that this is what being “liked” feels like.

Luckily, it sounds like she doesn’t. Smith says her daughter knows “That’s not how we show how we like someone. That was not a good choice.”

It sounds like Jodi has a good mom who is protecting her and teaching her that it is never OK for a person to hit you, and it is not how a person shows that he or she likes someone. But the man at the hospital is an adult and a caregiver in a position of authority to injured children, and so he should be thinking a lot harder about the impression his words will have.

“In that moment, hurt and in a new place, worried about perhaps getting a shot or stitches you were a person we needed to help us and your words of comfort conveyed a message that someone who likes you might hurt you,” Jodi’s mother wrote. “No. I will not allow that message to be ok. I will not allow it to be louder than ‘That’s not how we show we like each other.’ At that desk you are in a position of influence, whether you realize it or not. You thought you were making the moment lighter. It is time to take responsibility for the messages we as a society give our children. Do Not tell my 4 year old who needs stitches from a boy at school hitting her ‘I bet he likes you.’ NO.”


Smith’s post has since gone viral and certainly made its way back to the hospital, where I am certain the man in question got an earful about it. I hope he did, because he certainly won’t be doing anything like that again.

Looking at that little girl’s picture, I think like a lot of mothers would have felt strongly compelled to respond to his harmful, sexist words with vehement opposition, and it would not be because they liked him.

I’m sure it was an honest mistake on his part and he did not mean it the way it sounded, but intent does not mitigate the effects of what he actually said. No adult should be telling a little girl that people hit her because they like her. There are a lot of ways that a hospital employee looking to make a 4-year-old girl feel better could have proceeded. “I’m sorry this happened. How are you feeling?” might be a good place to start.

(Photo: Facebook/Merritt Smith)

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