A recent article in the online version of Atlantic documents the findings of a study in a New Zealand elementary school regarding relaxed rules for recess. Students were allowed to play contact games, run, climb, and skateboard unsupervised on the playground. The experiment proved so successful that the school decided to maintain the “hands-off” policy. Teachers found that their students’ concentration in class increased after recess. Furthermore, bullying and injuries at the school actually decreased. The principal explained his position for extending the lenient policy. “We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.” His statement provides some food for thought. The famous German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said, “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.” Do well-meaning parents who attempt to insulate their children from risks actually prevent them from learning how to cope with disappointment or failure?
Should parents intercede when their teens don’t make a team? Should they contact the principal any time a student receives a poor grade for not completing an assignment or for failing a test? How can the “Millenials,” whose parents have been overzealous advocates for them, cope with disappointment in the workplace when they don’t receive that expected promotion or raise? Previous studies have indicated that American students have very high self-esteem but low ability when compared with their Asian counterparts, who have low esteem and high ability. Parents need to find a balance that keeps their children safe but allows them to grow as well. Allowing them to actually PLAY is a step in the right direction.