Long ago we used to think children should work out their problems for themselves. But what we now know is that children are often not developmentally ready to do this without support to help them understand social interaction. The child who spoke to you may have misunderstood the situation or she may have witnessed an act that was hurtful to another. At school we tell children that if they witness someone being unkind and do nothing, they are part of the problem. We need to all look out for each other and when things happen, we must all help where we can. If upon investigation, the pushing did not occur then your job is to chat gently with the one who came to you to find out what was going on for her. Was she feeling left out or unhappy? The key here is to help the children in a kind and supportive way to sort through the problem, rather than to look for someone to punish.

You said that one of the reasons you did not intercede was because it was uncharacteristic of your daughter to do such a thing. For this reason alone it would be worth checking out. Is it possible your daughter had been terribly frustrated at the way the play was going and acted before she thought? Was there something else going on that precipitated such an act? As the supervising adult, it is important to wade in to make sure everyone is okay, your daughter included.

Sometimes things go too far and children do not know how to navigate the social waters successfully. Having an adult help them problem solve will teach them to notice the clues that things are not going well and let them move in a more positive direction. This does not mean you step in and try to assess blame in a situation. Instead you may simply help them change direction and remind them of acceptable social behaviour (no hitting, pushing or calling names etc.) At this age children cannot be expected to navigate play dates without mishap. It is our job to be there to assist as needed. 

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