The “Safe Space” Facade
The issue of creating safe spaces for children and preventing them from standing up to bullies has been a controversial topic in recent years. Supporters of safe spaces argue that they are necessary to protect vulnerable children from harm, while opponents claim that they prevent children from developing resilience and the ability to cope with adversity. The conclusion that I have found is that safe spaces and a lack of allowing kids to stand up to bullies debilitates their ability to overcome adversity and regulate emotions, which leads to violent outbursts as adults. Here are just a few key points from research I’ve conducted in recent years.
Lack of Resilience
Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity and bounce back from difficult situations. Children who are constantly sheltered from harm and never exposed to challenging situations are unable to develop resilience. This can lead to a lack of coping mechanisms and an inability to handle stress as adults. Research has shown that children who are exposed to adversity early in life are better equipped to handle stress and overcome adversity later in life (Masten & Wright, 2010). Safe spaces prevent children from experiencing adversity, which inhibits their ability to develop resilience.
Inability to Regulate Emotions
The ability to regulate emotions is crucial for healthy development. Children who are never exposed to challenging situations and are constantly sheltered from harm are unable to develop emotional regulation skills. They may become overly sensitive to criticism or perceived slights, and may struggle to cope with negative emotions such as anger and frustration. This lack of emotional regulation can lead to violent outbursts as adults. Research has shown that individuals who struggle with emotional regulation are at a higher risk of engaging in erratic and violent behavior (Bushman & Anderson, 2001).
Lack of Assertiveness
Children who are not allowed to stand up to bullies may struggle with assertiveness as adults. They may struggle to set boundaries and stand up for themselves, which can lead to feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem. These feelings can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which can increase the risk of violent behavior (Dodge et al., 2009). Children who are taught to stand up for themselves and assert their boundaries are more likely to develop healthy self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Overall, safe spaces and a lack of allowing kids to stand up to bullies debilitates their ability to overcome adversity and regulate emotions, which can lead to violent outbursts as adults. Children need to be exposed to challenging situations and given the opportunity to develop resilience, emotional regulation, and assertiveness. While it is important to protect children from harm, it is equally important to allow them to develop the skills they need to handle adversity and become healthy, well-adjusted adults. After all, without adversity Mike Tyson would’ve never become the world’s greatest boxer at one time, Richard Branson would’ve never become a thought leaeder, and Tony Robbins would’ve never helped tens of millions of people across the globe. Although senseless bullying is not something we want to allow, nor do we ever want to see children suffer, it is important to encourage kids to stand up for themselves and one another when they see bullying take place. Running to the teacher or an adult is not an effective way to deal with it, and it only increases the likelihood for mass public violence in the kids later adult years. Each school will be different in the way it encourages kids to stand up for themselves. Its important for teachers and parents to work together to come to a general consensus on what this can look like so they can set expectations, and support their kids from home as well as in the school.
Bushman, B. J., & Anderson, C. A. (2001). Is it time to pull the plug on the hostile versus instrumental aggression dichotomy? Psychological Review, 108(1), 273-279.
Dodge, K. A., Coie, J. D., & Lynam, D. (2009). Aggression and antisocial behavior in youth. Handbook of child psychology, 3, 719-788.
Masten, A. S., & Wright, M. O. (2010). Resilience over the lifespan: Developmental perspectives on resistance, recovery, and transformation. Handbook of adult resilience, 213-237.