If we remove this important lesson, are we preparing our children any better for the future? If we shelter our kids from the "rain" of life, will they grow up thinking they don't need an umbrella?
Christians have a saying: "When life is difficult, don't pray for a lighter load. Pray for a stronger back." It's well conceived. The answer may not be to insist that life for your children conform to your reality. Instead, let's prepare each other to get through life's difficulties. When we prepare our children by helping them have high self-esteem, we're doing a wonderful thing. But when that high self-esteem has a basis in sailing through life without difficulty, we're doing nothing more than preparing our children to be given a giant wedgie by life later rather than sooner.
I studied theater history in college, and I remember that practically every great early actor came from unbelievable adversity. In fact, it seemed to be a prerequisite for awhile that to be a great actor you had to have your ass kicked early in life, and then those experiences(presumably) led you to greatness. I remember thinking - "wow, maybe my life hasn't been hard enough for me to be a great actor..."
A variety, a richness, a diversity of experience that includes the unexpected, the shocking, the awful, and the sad, is what constitutes life. When we insist that everyone be nice in youth, we're removing life's difficulty from their experience and falsely presenting life as an easy walk through a flower-strewn forest path. When we teach our kids happy-happy-joy-joy, we're not preparing them for the random "I-jacked-up-my-truck-y'all" douchebag who will flip them off in an intersection for no apparent reason. We're not preparing them for the random jackass in a bar, or the meth-addled toothless trainwreck who asks them for money "for food, totally." We're not preparing them for the power company accidentally shutting off their power due to a mix-up, for getting laid off, or for a dog that runs at them suddenly
We're not preparing our children for a job market where they might be one of 50 applicants for any given position, let alone the punk who yells "faggot!", or worse, driving by - just because. Because some people are just dicks.
Life isn't a combat situation, but adversity is a large part of it. I'm not suggesting we abuse our children, or let them be abused to prepare for later adversity. Of course we would never sit idly by and let our children be attacked. But can't a tiny bit of difficulty be a good inoculation for the adversity they'll experience later?