When it comes to our children, we would all love to wrap them up in a Tefal coating and ensure that they are never sad or disappointed – but that wouldn’t be life then, would it?
According to scientists, though, we shouldn’t feel too bad about our children experiencing regret. In fact, a little regret during childhood could actually lead our children to make better decisions as adults.
Don’t believe us? Allow us to point you to a new piece of research carried out by a team at Queen’s University, Belfast.
A team of researchers recently conducted a series of experiments to determine how regret affected a young child’s decision-making skills – and the results were pretty fascinating.
As part of the research, the team gathered a group of 326 children – aged five to nine years – from primary schools in Northern Ireland. They then presented them with a series of situations where they had to make a decision.
In one experiment, the children were presented with two boxes; both filled with stickers, but in different amounts. The children were then asked to choose a box and, once they opened them, the team rated their reactions.
Those who opened the box with the smaller amount of stickers were found to have expressed regret, knowing that they would have walked away with more stickers had they opened the other box.
Interestingly, the researchers found that this regret spurred those children on to adjust their decision-making. The next day, when the children were presented with the same choice, they instead opted for the box that they knew contained more stickers.
Explaining the science behind the experiment, lead author Dr Aidan Feeney said that those who experienced regret typically went on to make better decisions.
“Our study suggests that developing the ability to experience regret may be important. It could have significant value to children’s development because of its role in decision-making,” he wrote.
“We’re not saying teachers and parents should deliberately expose children to serious regret. But showing them how things would have turned out differently if they had made an alternative choice could benefit them.”
Dr Feeney added that this research could prove especially helpful for teens, particularly when it comes to habits relating to alcohol and sexual behaviour.