The July/August 2011 article in The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb posed the question:” Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults? Gottlieb describes a possible scenario of a child falling in a playground: “…if you don’t let her experience [toddler tripping] momentary confusion, give her a chance to figure out what just happened (Oh, I tripped), and then briefly let her grapple with the frustration of having fallen and perhaps even try to pick herself up, she has no idea what discomfort feels like and will have no framework for how to recover when she feels discomfort later in life. …If, on the other hand, the child trips on the rock, and the parents let her try to reorient for a second before going over to comfort her, the child learns: That was scary for a second, but I’m okay now. If something unpleasant happens, I can get through it.”
Gottleib and other researchers she sites believe kids need “exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle” in order to learn how to experience and deal with painful feelings. We have an expression at the CBC, all feelings will pass. We believe in our role as mentors for young people that we help them learn how to deal with uncomfortable feelings like the frustration that can come with the struggle of fixing a bike when one’s level of bike repair skills don’t yet meet the challenge, the pain in your legs as you bike up a steep hill, and conflictual situations with other people. We believe children are learning valuable life skills through understanding their primary feelings underlying feelings like anger, frustration, and upset. In turn they learn how to problem solve and resolve conflicts on their own as new challenges arise as part of life.