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Mom to hospital worker: Don't tell my daughter 'hitting is flirting'
An Ohio mother wants to make sure her daughter understands an important message: When a boy hits you, its never a sign of love. - photo by Jessica Ivins
COLUMBUS, Ohio An Ohio mother wants to make sure her daughter understands an important message: When a boy hits you, its never a sign of love.

Merritt Smiths comments stemmed from a hospital visit with her little girl, Joni, who needed stitches under her eye after a boy in her preschool hit her in the face with a metal teapot, Yahoo Parenting reports.

When Smith and Joni checked in with the registrar at the front desk of Nationwide Childrens Hospital and told him what happened, he replied, I bet he likes you.

Horrified by the comment, Smith wrote an open letter to the stranger on Facebook, which has since been shared nearly 35,000 times. Though she acknowledged the man probably didnt mean any harm with what he said, the message itself is extremely damaging.

Im positive that you didnt think that statement through, she wrote. That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior.

Smith points out that her daughter, at just 4 years old, knows that hurting someone is not an acceptable choice. Vulnerable and scared as she walked into the hospital, she needed someone to help her feel safe, Smith said. Instead, she received a message that someone who likes you might hurt you.

I will not allow that message to be OK, Smith continued. I will not allow it to be louder than, Thats not how we show we like each other. Tell me you like me. Draw me a picture. Write me a letter, a poem. Do not confuse aggression with affection.

Smith points out that society needs to think about the messages it's sending our children. As adults, she says, we have a position of influence. We shape what they view as acceptable and what is not.

I want to be clear that my intensity on this is directed at adults, she wrote. We will make the difference. Its time to be conscious adults leading the way.

Smiths post inspired hundreds of shares and comments most in support of her mission.

Im sorry that the man at the desk said that, wrote one commenter. He probably doesnt even realize that his words have such a profound ability to mold a young mind.

Smith agreed, further emphasizing her motivation for speaking out in the first place.

I do not mean to attack the hospital or get this man fired, she wrote. He genuinely meant no harm. My intensity and intent is to change old scripts that do not serve us as adults and most certainly do not serve our children.

"I know we can change the messages that guide or children as they learn to interact with one another, develop conflict resolution skills, choose empathy and stand strong in their sense of self.

Smith did alert Nationwide Childrens Hospital about the incident. Hospital officials reached out to Smith and her family, and posted an apology to the hospitals Facebook page.

Although we know the comment was made with no malicious intent, it is our wish to apologize and express to you that this is something we are taking seriously, the post reads. This comment does not represent our philosophy as an institution.

The hospital met with the employee, as well as with leadership teams to understand the situation and take measures to prevent this from happening again.