Parent trap: Hovering over kids may hoover up their independence

In raising his two kids, my friend Lachie followed his dad’s philosophy: citizens of the world know a few phrases of French, tennis or golf, and how to play one card game really well. Master them, the rest will sort itself out.

I cross professional paths with Katrina McCarter, whose business Marketing to Mums gives her insider knowledge into mothers’ minds. She also learned a lot from her own mum, Helen. When Katrina started high school, Helen trained her in money management, forecasting and cashflows.

‘By 13, kids should know how to cook one meal, by 15 have a job … and by 18 be able to have difficult conversations.’

Each term Katrina submitted projected outgoings – books, uniforms, after-school ice creams. When the budget passed, she alone managed her expenses. If the money ran out, no school camp.

Now a mum of three, Katrina believes that by 13 kids should know how to cook one meal, by 15 have a job and start paying their own way, and by 18 be able to have difficult conversations: “It turns them into creative problem solvers and builds resilience.”

Veronica McGowan and I had our third babies on the same day at the same East Melbourne hospital, so our mothering journeys have entwined. What my friend taught her kids: To create order (so you always know where your passport is). To argue. To complain in an effective way “without being a dick”. To repair clothes, change a tyre, treat a snake bite and apply sufficient sunscreen.

Helicopter parenting.Credit:Matt Golding

By age four, Gary Clarke was doing odd jobs including painting graves. He left school at 15 for an apprenticeship and wound up being a top executive for a Fortune 100 company in Europe.

Now the CEO of 360Resolve, Gary uses modern leadership principles with his three girls: “When I feel myself wanting control over the agenda with the kids, I back off and ask them, ‘What do you think is the right thing to do?’ You have to let them find their way.”

What did we teach our three kids? To ski, respond with exceptional manners when asked how they are, interpret dress codes and drive manual cars.

In case they’re roped into a Bond movie chase scene, they also have motorbike, bus, boat and scissor-lift licences.

I can hear an echoing “grazie” from here. Prego!

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