As I visit with preschool administrators around the country a common theme emerges: the dynamics of smaller families are affecting children’s abilities to learn how to endure the bumps and bruises of everyday life.
Many school principals and teachers hear from upset parents the first few days and weeks of school because children go home and complain about preschool. Used to being the center of attention of adults who listen and take care of their every request, these children are frustrated by the interpersonal demands of a preschool classroom.
”I told my friend I wanted to use the crayons, and she didn’t listen.”
”I hurt my knee on the playground, and I didn’t get a Shrek bandage.”
”I didn’t eat a snack because they didn’t have my favorite cookies.”
”I didn’t get a turn on the swing.”
Teachers report that parents are increasingly reluctant to let children endure any discomfort.
These parents are more likely to remove their children from preschool than in previous years. Teachers say that parents in the quest to raise a perfect child have forgotten that important, yet basic, lessons are learned the hard way. We break a treasured toy. Friends don’t listen to us. Friends won’t play the game we want to play. We skin our knees on the playground. Lunch isn’t our favorite hamburger with fries. Somehow in these interactions we learn important coping skills.
At the moment of our discomfort most of us are usually not happy campers. In retrospect, though, we may see a pattern of rough moments that have polished our character into a gemstone. The hurts endured–a friend sitting with someone else, of being hungry and not liking the foods offered—are growth experiences. These situations help us become resilient.
I’m reminded of six-year-old Caiti who visited my home. We found only one thing in the kitchen that Caiti could eat on her wheat-free diet. Crunchy peanut butter. I knew that Caiti preferred smooth.
”I’m sorry, Caiti, but I only have crunchy.”
”That’s fine,” Caiti said. ”I’ll deal with it.”
Caiti exhibits the kind of flexibility that comes with getting a few bumps and bruises and knowing that somehow it’s all going to be okay. Not everything is going to go your way in life, and we do our children a disservice when we try to protect them from every disappointment or discomfort.
”Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.
There will be ups and downs in our children’s lives. It is the small irritations that smooth and polish character as our children learn to take the good with the bad, and to get up every time circumstances knock them for a loop.
Remember that any unnecessary help is a hindrance to a child’s development. Everyday jostlings teach our children to have the flexibility and strength to keep moving forward in order to enjoy and appreciate the experience of being alive.