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My daughter says “Mommy, don’t hurt me!” when she misbehaves in front of others.
Q: My daughter is 2 years old and has an amazing vocabulary. She has learned a few tricks from some of the older kids at daycare, and one of them is driving me mad! When we are around other people and she knows she is doing something she is not supposed to, she often attempts to make me out to be the bad guy—if I catch her doing something wrong, she will duck her head, flinch, and say, "No, mummy, don't hurt me." I have never laid a hand on this child. I don't believe in spanking, so where is she learning this? Should I be concerned that someone else (daycare?) is hitting her? Or is she simply trying to get out of trouble?
A: I haven’t got a clue what she is doing, but I doubt she got it from other children. My first concern is that she might have been hit in daycare, but if you have her in a good facility, that would not happen. Look into it nonetheless. It is possible that an older child might be the model for such behaviour, as sometimes a 7- or 8-year-old will assume that moralistic/supervisor role. However, I doubt there is that much age spread in your daughter’s daycare.

You say that your daughter does this when you catch her doing something wrong. Sometimes a child will be very precocious in the development of a sense of right and wrong. When your daughter says this, she may be saying in effect, “I’ve been bad and you should punish me, but give me some reassurance that you won’t.” The next time she says this, try saying something like, “I won’t hurt you, but I do want you to remember not to do that (the wrong act) again.” Then distract her with something she can do that is acceptable.