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  • Chris Bezsylko

Guess What Harms Children's Happiness The Most According to Child Therapists?

Imagination Lab School (ILS) is an innovative community of learners, serving students in grades TK-8 across Silicon Valley. We believe that every child deserves a space where they feel seen and heard, a learning environment where they feel both challenged and supported, and a team of caring adults who help each child learn and grow at their own pace.


I recently came across an enlightening article from HuffPost that examined how overprotective parenting can negatively impact a child's happiness and self-esteem. As an educator, I found myself nodding along to the insights shared by child therapists in the piece.





The Dangers of Overprotection

The article explains that many well-intentioned parents try to shield their kids from failure, hurt, or disappointment by being over involved and/or over programming their children. However, this excessive protection can backfire by depriving children of important learning experiences. As child psychotherapist Jen Hartstein stated: "I think parents often interfere in things because they’re worried about their children’s happiness, but what they’re doing is making it harder for their children to actually learn the skills to be happy." This really resonated with me, as our mission at ILS is to ignite and nurture confidence, curiosity, and creativity in students. We want children to develop the coping strategies needed to handle challenges, setbacks and stressful situations.

Fostering Independence

The HuffPost article emphasizes that allowing children to solve problems independently helps bolster their self-confidence. I'm proud to say this aligns seamlessly with the ILS approach. Our hands-on, real-world curriculum provides plenty of opportunities for students to exercise autonomy. Children choose topics aligned with their interests and take ownership of the learning process. Our learning guides act as curators, facilitators, and coaches, allowing children to make mistakes and helping them reflect on how to improve. We also encourage healthy risk-taking through activities like student-led presentations, open-ended design challenges, project-based learning, and field experiences. Students learn to push their boundaries while developing tenacity and resilience. By fostering independence in a safe, nurturing environment, we believe children will gain the problem-solving abilities needed to navigate life's challenges. This sense of self-efficacy is a valuable gift parents can give their kids by honoring their emotional journeys, practicing gratitude, demonstrating unconditional love, minimizing comparisons to others, and minimizing praise. The article goes on to share that children develop a sense of mattering through daily activities such as household chores. We've found that simple activities such as carrying your own backpack, cleaning up your workstation, and having a community job at school helps children develop a sense of confidence and competence.


Conclusion

As child experts rightly point out, overprotective parenting and over programming can limit a child's happiness and self-confidence. At ILS, we strive to strike the right balance - providing support while encouraging independence. Our goal is to equip students with the mindset, skillset and tool-set needed to handle life's ups and downs. By allowing children to spread their wings, parents can help them soar.

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