The health care system has moved towards home care, early discharge, and day procedures. Parents in the home are, therefore, far more likely to be managing their children's postoperative pain than health professionals. The purpose of this study was to describe mothers' experiences in identifying and managing their children's acute pain associated with surgery. Because little is known about family's perceptions and management of a child's pain in the home, a qualitative design and grounded theory method were used. A purposive, convenience sample of 7 mothers whose children were 4-8 years old and who had a day-surgery adenoid-tonsillectomy were interviewed in depth (2-3 interviews per mother). Four themes were found in the data: (1) mothers' descriptions of their children's overall pattern of postoperative pain indicated that pain was minimal or absent before surgery, increased following surgery, and decreased with medicine and healing; (2) mothers' assessment and evaluation of their children's pain used pain cues similar to those used by nurses and physicians; (3) all the mothers worried about drug addiction; and 4) mothers learned to manage their children's pain through 'trial and error'. This study provides beginning data for understanding family management of children's pain.