Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."
Messing up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.
"Life is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior. "But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared to academic achievement."
And, then the KikiGill theory:
Imagine if you will, our lives like a maze - a very complex hedge maze (you know the kind where you might wander around for hours hitting dead end after dead end). Then imagine if you already have mapped a good part of the maze yourself. You know where there are dead ends and false starts. There are certain ways you just know won't work.
Now, imagine seeing someone we love, struggling with a part of the maze that we have often struggled with ourselves. Don't we want to shout at them, "Hey, that's a dead end down there!" or "Turn around, you're heading nowhere?" Of course we do, it is natural. We want them to know what we know and offer them shortcuts through their life. If we could, we might just take a big mower and mow a path right through the center of the maze for them so it will be easy for them to find the other side.
As parents, we have to remember that it is our children's job to learn that maze themselves. We have to keep them safe and clothed, fed and loved, but we cannot make them go or stop at will. In fact, part of that hedge maze for them is learning to escape their parents' grasp. When they are little, they might duck out of sight for just a moment and they might come running back to the beginning to kiss us or tell us about their day. However, as they grow up, they may hide for days in that maze. We have to let them go and trust that, when they come out the other side, they will be smarter and more adept at "life" for it!