Why harsh schoolyards are not the best way to prepare kids for the harsh realities of the world (and what is)

I worry about the deflating hardships my innocent, bubbly four-year-old will face throughout her life. I don’t worry so much about the situations she will find herself in once she’s an adult, but the interactions that will squash her while she’s a child, particularly in her school years, while she’s still building her resilience.


I often hear people agree the schoolyard is harsh but argue that it will prepare our children for the reality of the world. After all, there are cruel people out there, and our children may work beside them (or for them) throughout their careers and encounter them in social relationships, so they need to be equipped to take these personalities in their stride or even stand up to them.



While I agree it’s important to prepare our children to face these challenges, I don’t agree exposing them to harsh behaviour at school is the way to do it. 


A school setting is far removed from the reality of life. Young children are usually grouped together with others of the same age, and all of them are relatively new to navigating their way through social interactions. They’re largely left to work it out for themselves.


And so, children simply learn from each other, often reinforcing each other’s bad habits, and the playground becomes social survival, which is carried into the classroom. This doesn’t so much prepare children for the harsh realities of adulthood, but rather it thrusts those harsh realities on them too soon and perhaps even prepares them to become the very kinds of people we wanted to protect them from in the first place.



Allowing this to happen in a learning environment is a missed opportunity because this kind of social setting is the ideal place to teach children valuable communication techniques. In a learning environment, children are constantly sharing ideas and responding to others and, when these conversations are facilitated using techniques that create a safe space, we’re equipping children with the tools they need to interact positively with the world around them. And these are the same tools that will help them thrive when things get tough later in life.


When we create a safe, non-judgemental environment and allow plenty of time to discuss uncomfortable situations that occur in the playground and beyond, using visual tools for the children to share how that made them feel (as often children are not aware of the impact of their actions or words on others) and then to problem-solve strategies for next time, we are empowering both parties (and the rest of the social group) with the ability to navigate challenging situations.



The first step towards creating resilient adults is to allow children to develop and practice communication tools in a supportive setting, so they feel empowered and armed with strategies to calmly face difficult people and situations, with understanding and compassion.


The best way to protect our children from the harsh realities of adulthood is to equip the next generation with the tools they need to avoid becoming victims or perpetrators of unhealthy communication habits.


True self-assurance and true resilience comes from a deep understanding of people, interactions and your place in the world. This understanding does not miraculously occur when in survival mode, navigating the schoolyard. It comes through practicing tools with others to create and build a strong foundation and an awareness of why people are behaving and speaking in a certain way.




Shrugging and saying that a bit of nastiness at school will toughen up our children for a tough world doesn’t only leave our children ill-prepared for the future; it teaches them to accept that the world is full of harsh interactions. Perhaps if we stop accepting this as an inevitable fact and start being aware of a better approach, we can help our children create social change. When we equip children with an understanding of the impact of their words and actions, an understanding of other’s intentions, and an understanding of effective communication, they can successfully mediate their way through all walks of life.


Alithia Learning is a first-of-its-kind learning facility for children aged 5–12. The approach prioritises creating a safe, non-judgemental environment with a culture of “we all speak here”. Alithia Learning will provide free training videos and online workshops to share positive interaction tools around the globe, shifting the culture of learning environmentsAlithia Inc. works in conjunction with university researchers to publish longitudinal studies on this approach. This charity requires the support of the global community to pilot the first learning facility which will help to create policy change on education. 


For more information about these tools please see:

Website: alithialearning.org.au/positive-psychology-tools/

Blog about the effectiveness of communication tools trialled in schools:


Follow us: facebook.com/alithialearning


Opinion Piece. Author: Talula Hughes, founder of Alithia Learning.

From the Blog

What are we doing with $52,000 win?

April 15, 2021

Self-Empowerment and Arts Program

April 15, 2021

Interest-based Holistic Program 2021

April 9, 2021

Survey Results From Families

November 27, 2020

Inspirational Learning Resources For Kids

October 20, 2020

What families are saying

October 16, 2020

Alithia Junior Launches

June 16, 2020

Online Hubs (Innovators and Holistic)

June 11, 2020

Position Vacant at Alithia

March 8, 2020

Thursdays at Alithia

February 26, 2020

Alithia in the Media

February 26, 2020

Alithia 2019 Feedback

November 5, 2019

Alithia Mentors 2020

May 12, 2019

Alithia’s $60,000 Success

April 14, 2019

Ingredients for an ideal learning space

April 9, 2019

Alithia Campout 2 – Reconnect

April 3, 2019

Alithia Community Festival Fundraiser March 2019

March 13, 2019

February Update from the Hub

February 11, 2019

When Children Instigate Projects: Raft Building

February 11, 2019

When Children Instigate Projects: Raft Building

November 16, 2018

Music, Learning and STEM via Play

October 10, 2018

Nature, Science and Culture Event

August 14, 2018

Alithia Music / Singing Workshop

June 26, 2018

Alithia Drama Workshop

June 12, 2018

Alithia Clay and Yoga Workshop

May 14, 2018

Conflict is an opportune moment for development

April 19, 2018

Alithia Permaculture Farm Play Day

April 10, 2018

Camping Adventure

March 27, 2018

How to maintain your child’s natural talent for lateral thinking

March 8, 2018

Alithia Forest Play Date

March 7, 2018

Alithia Communication Workshop

February 28, 2018

Five Ways to Sustain Creativity at Home and in School

February 20, 2018

New learning facility set to re-imagine education

February 16, 2018

The key to successful discipline and reshaping a child’s brain

January 28, 2018

Why harsh schoolyards are not the best way to prepare kids for the harsh realities of the world (and what is)

January 20, 2018

How to get creativity, innovation and engagement in education

January 6, 2018

Alithia workshop with Physical Artist Nancy Sposato

December 14, 2017

How ‘friluftsliv’ can help you reconnect with nature

December 14, 2017

The Education Paradigm & Creative Thinking

November 13, 2017

The Art of Learning

November 13, 2017

Alithia Nature Art Workshop

November 12, 2017

Embodying Creativity

November 12, 2017

Oberländer’s School, Berlin

November 4, 2017

Proposal Abstract for Researchers and Investors

November 1, 2017

Alithia’s First Gathering

October 28, 2017

Research on Alithia (QUT)

October 20, 2017

Research Questions for Universities

October 19, 2017

Forest Kindergartens, Denmark

October 4, 2017

Candlebark & Fitzroy Community School, Victoria

October 4, 2017

This is what happens when children create their own curriculum

October 4, 2017

Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English

October 2, 2017

The Alithia Story

September 14, 2017

The Unsafe Child: Less Outdoor Play is Causing More Harm than Good

September 14, 2017

When You Teach Meditation, Something Amazing Happens

September 14, 2017

The Revolution Will Not Take Place in a Classroom

September 14, 2017

The Nature School, Port Macquarie

September 4, 2017

Tinker Tank, UK

September 4, 2017

Global Village School

September 2, 2017

What is Alithia?

May 13, 2017

About Us

Alithia Learning runs a range of child-led programs designed for 5 to 12 year-olds. The defining characteristics of our programs are positive communication and freedom to learn.

Join Us

You don't have to live on the Mid North Coast to get involved with Alithia. If you love what we're about, get involved!

Follow Us

News and events are announced on our social platforms.