This is exactly right:
Subjecting children to daily unpleasantness – in the form of arbitrary rules, dysfunctional socialization, scholastic regimentation, age-segregation, teasing, bullying, verbal abuse, or what have you – in the name of acclimatization to the “real world” simply lowers their standards for the life they will accept.
The idea that parents should stand aside from protecting their kids—or even go so far as to deliberately do things that are cruel or capricious—to make sure that children learn the various lessons that add up to understanding that “life is tough” or “life isn’t fair” is an insane one. No child, no matter how coddled or protected, is going to fail to confront the sorts of problems that drive those lessons home.
I’ve written on the same topic. In particular, in Find Work Worth Doing, where I criticize mock work (such as most school work) and go on to say:
I think parents also do their kids no favors when they encourage them to take low-skill, part-time jobs to earn pocket money. (Sometimes they do so with the explicit motivation that it will teach their kids the value of work!) Kids will be far ahead of the game if they’re taught how to identify work that’s worth doing, and how to find a job doing that work.
Protecting a child from the hard knocks of life will not prevent your child from learning the truth about the real world. Nothing can.