Daily Archives: October 7, 2015

Overprotecting Children: More Harm Than Good?

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Consider the following yet another example of modern society’s attempt at sheltering it’s children to an unhealthy extent. According to the StarTribune, two elementary schools in Edina, Minnesota have spent $30000.00 to hire a company called Playworks to assist in creating a “more inclusive” recess experience for children. Why is there a need for such consultation? Playworks founder Jill Vialet opines that there is a need! She explains that while visiting a school in Oakland, Cailforina, the principal lamented about a problem with recess:

“it had become the most chaotic period of the school day, with kids getting hurt, getting into trouble and getting left out.”

Before you get too concerned and start to worry, rest assured, Playworks can help! They can assist your school to help prevent such overt calamities. According to the company’s website:

“We can change this. Recess should be fun and energetic and safe and inclusive for everyone.”

I’m more inclined to let children try to work things out themselves, because that was how I was raised, and I didn’t turn out so bad.

To be fair to the schools, the reality is, we live in an extremely litigious, rife with overprotective, overindulgent, and over-permissive parents who hold schools to a considerably higher level of responsibility than generations past. I’m not surprised that schools seek to minimize potential lawsuits as best they can. To be completely honest, I find it difficult to blame the schools. Under the circumstances, who really can blame them?  I blame the society that has necessitated such overcautiousness. I often wonder about the effect on our children.

When children are overprotected, they are often denied experiences that help them grow emotionally and intellectually. Instead of developing skills like problem solving and deductive reasoning, they simply run to the appropriate adult to have a problem solved for them. It is crucial for children to learn how to deal with adversity, in order for them to learn how to better cope with it. If everything is constantly being done for them, they are denied this experience. Let’s look at “the problem” with recess, as defined by Playworks.

Chaos

What adults see as “chaos”, I’d imagine most children see as plain ole fun! This “chaos”, as Playworks puts it, is a great stress release for children. Consider the following conclusion from “Journal of School Health”:

“Recess serves a critical role in school as a necessary break from the rigors of academic challenges. Recess is a complement to, not a replacement for, physical education. Both promote activity and a healthy lifestyle; however, recess—particularly unstructured recess and free play—provides a unique contribution to a child’s creative, social, and emotional development. From the perspective of children’s health and well-being, recess time should be considered a child’s personal time and should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Children Getting Hurt

Children need to learn how and when to take risks.  Research from Norway suggests that “increased neuroticism or psychopathology in society if children are hindered from partaking in age adequate risky play.” In other words, getting hurt helps teach children that getting hurt doesn’t necessarily equate to serious injury. A scraped knee caused by a fall in a playground is not the same as a broken leg. Getting hit with a baseball is not the same as getting hit by a car. No one ever wishes to see a child get hurt, but children need to understand that it is going to happen, and they shouldn’t live in a constant state of fear of getting injured.

Getting Into Trouble

Children need to learn how resolve conflict with other children on their own. In doing so, they learn how to settle differences, negotiate, and compromise, all CRUCIAL life skills. When an adult intervenes, it supports the notion of looking to someone else to solve your problems. They need to learn the importance of thinking before they speak and act, and “getting into trouble” also helps to teach them that there are oft time consequences to their actions.

Getting Left Out

A negative emotion, without question, but don’t children need to learn how to deal with negative emotions in order to learn how to manage them? Could it be beneficial for a child to feel rejection, and learn to deal with it, rather than simply have an adult immediately intervene? If a child can’t learn to accept and/or address the rejection of not being selected for a game, how is the child going to learn to accept and/or address the rejection of more serious things?

Let our children be children. Let them relish all the experiences of being a child, both the good and the bad. Let them revel in their youth. Afford them the opportunity to rise to the occasion, and overcome challenges, but let them experience failure as well, and all of the lessons it has to offer. Watch over them, observe them, marvel at their accomplishments when they succeed, and offer comfort and support when they fail. But let them fail. Because everyone fails at some point, and they need to accept and understand that.

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Well, if we do not let our children fail, we are most certainly limiting their success. But hey, I’m just a cop!

*UPDATE 10/12/215 – NYC has also hired Playworks, I read about it in the NY Post

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