• "The world feels like a more dangerous place, but it's not." (Flickr/Aikawa Ke- http://bit.ly/2k7fHHy)Source: Flickr/Aikawa Ke- http://bit.ly/2k7fHHy
You might have their best interests at heart but doing everything for your kids and protecting them from mistakes is actually not in their best interest – or yours – says parenting expert Michael Grose.
Kimberly Gillan

27 Jan 2017 - 10:58 AM  UPDATED 27 Jan 2017 - 11:13 AM

We're raising a generation of kids who are dependent on their parents much longer than necessary, according to parenting expert Michael Grose, author of the upcoming book Spoonfed Generation: How to Raise Independent Children.

"We have very anxious, very fearful parents and it seems we are raising a group of kids who are dependent a lot longer and [becoming] increasingly anxious," Grose tells SBS.

A big part of the problem, according to Grose, is our smaller family sizes – past generations who often had four or more children learnt how to parent with their first child and didn't have time to mollycoddle subsequent siblings.

"With 50 per cent of Australian families having two kids or less, you're always on that high learning curve. If you want independence in kids, raise your small family with a big family mindset."

"They need autonomy to make decisions about their own life and they also need to learn to manage their own emotions and have a sense of self-discipline [without] entitlement."

To do that, he suggests parents allow kids to do things for themselves. "They need the ability to contribute at home without being paid because that develops good independent skills," he says.

"They need autonomy to make decisions about their own life and they also need to learn to manage their own emotions and have a sense of self-discipline [without] entitlement."

That might all sound logical, but when it feels like danger is lurking around every corner, it can be difficult for parents to let go.

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Here are Grose's tips for creating an independent generation.

Be realistic about the dangers of independence

Despite the fact our 24-hour news feeds constantly remind us of the atrocities of the world, statistics show that the world is actually becoming a safer place.

"Most parents will admit they had more freedom as children than they give their own kids and that it was good for them," Grose points out. "The world feels like a more dangerous place, but it's not."

Teach them to do things for themselves

Little things like teaching toddlers to put their cup in the sink or letting primary school kids walk to school (after showing them the way) can go a long way towards fostering independence.

"Rather than doing things for your kids, teach them and step back a little bit," Grose says. "We need to give kids opportunities to solve some of their own problems and do things for themselves."

Look to the Scandinavians

Grose says Scandinavian cultures prioritise outdoor time and freedom for kids and their children are benefiting as a result. "The Scandinavian way is not to create a super safe playground but to create a playground that has challenges in it," he says.

"Kids have far more freedom to come and go and use public transport far more – they're far less dependent on their parents."

He contrasts that with the stereotype of the "tiger mum" who demands obedience and academic diligence from their children. "Those kids don't have a lot of autonomy … if you want a well-balanced child, I'm not certain that's always the track to go down. Most of them will be low risk takers."

Let them get hurt

If you never let your children climb the lower branches of a tree, Grose says they're likely to climb straight to the top the minute they're given a chance – and their risk of hurting themselves from a fall ends up much greater.

"Sometimes you can get a little bit hurt or have something not quite go right but you learn from that," he points out. "You don't want them to take their first risk in adolescence."

Spoonfed Generation: How to Raise Independent Children by Michael Grose (Penguin Random House) is out in February 2017.

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