I was at a conference recently, for therapists and teachers, and the lecturer really wanted to make a point that aggression is good.
It’s part of nature and therefore we should not get involved in the aggression between children. By avoiding getting involved in their little struggles we’re allowing them to deal with adversity. And adversity makes you stronger or the old adage what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – or it builds character.
Okay, I guess I get his point. But I think his points are accurate while his conclusion flawed. Probably equally as flawed as the one he is reacting against – the overwhelming lack of allowing competition and going so far as to demonize children’s aggression.
My belief is happiness heals and it encourages growth.
We can’t control all aspects of the environment so that adversity doesn’t present itself in our child’s world. But not acting so that we can make them stronger is a flawed approach.
To say that trees are able to grow through the adversity of fire or that animals don’t get their feelings hurt when other animals are mean to them misses the basic issue. Human’s brains are different in some ways than these other living entities and the strengthening power of adversity seems to be more of a hardening and pulling in energy rather than a growth promoting response to life. It’s more survivalistic less empowering
Yes trees grow through fire, but they don’t grow bigger as a result of the adversity – they just grow. And there is evidence that other mammals that are separated, isolated from their group show signs of stress just as humans do. In fact many do not survive without their group when in environments stressed by social aggression and negative environmental factors.
It is more accurate that trees grow bigger with the things that nurture their growth – good soil/nutrition, water, sunlight, a supportive environment/not too crowded/space – the roots grow deeper and the branches larger and more full of leaves and fruit, with these perfect conditions of positivity.
Some plants actually have a set structure that they require a fire to cause new seed growth. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, having to resolve an adverse situation for humans may allow for creative resolutions and new growth.
However, for optimal growth, things that really encourage growth are better at creating inner strength in our children.
Being given the best of happiness, love, support, guidance, opportunity, and safety does actually increase internal strength, self-confidence, curiosity, perseverance, creativity, and self- esteem.
Interestingly, the myths and all the stories of heroes are filled with children who have grown up with adversity – loss of parents, abuse, abandonment, persecution, with occasional support from strangers, teachers or far away fairy godmothers.
This doesn’t mean that adversity makes you stronger. The stories are meant to give strength to those who must work through deficits and adversity, recognizing that it is an eventual experience in life.
The best growth promotion remains happiness and joy, support and nurturing.
That’s why the more you focus on strengths and limitations, paradigm shifting, choosing joy, and responding to your children in the present moment from a wholistic (figure/ground) perspective – the more they grow bigger, stronger, and fuller.
Just notice what you see with yourself – its right there.
See you tomorrow.