What is the ‘Ugly parent syndrome’?

So much is expected of schools these days. How often do we hear ‘This should be taught in school’? write Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble

Parent pressure
We are seeing an increase in the number of parents who have leader­ship aspirations for their teenager and, as a result, overload them with activities that will ‘look good’ on their school CV. Some parents even talk about their child’s ‘brand’ being created and nurtured, so they might become a prefect or school captain, which will in turn look impressive when it comes to getting a job. Teenagers who are already sleep poor are being encouraged to do volunteer work outside school, play an instrument, engage in representative sport and keep achieving excellent marks. Such pressure cannot be good for adolescents and can easily lead to burnout or worse.

And, even if the thought of a leadership role for your child is the furthest thing from your mind, we warn against overfilling their schedules. When teens are coming home late from yet another activ­ity and then they have to eat dinner, study and have some downtime, they simply can’t be getting the sleep they need to function properly. And because teens are telling us they’re feeling pressured, shouldn’t we be taking things off their plates, not piling things on?

‘Ugly parent syndrome’ has now been given a label. These are the parents who yell abuse at referees or coaches or the children themselves. They are the parents who are making their teens hide with embarrass­ment and want to stop playing the sport. These parents are passionate and loving and committed, but we need to remember what our adoles­cents are witnessing and what they might model themselves down the track. And, as Professor Ian Hickie from Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre says, if we try to control the team and coach from the sideline, we’re stopping our teens having a relationship with another functional adult. ‘Let them see how someone else deals with things,’ he recom­mends. That way, children gain a richer experience of life and parents can stop trying to take responsibility for absolutely everything.

Another worrying trend is the increase in academic coaching and tutoring. Obviously, some students need a bit of extra support if they are falling way behind in a subject that is essential for their schooling. But if your child is being coached into top classes or exclusive schools, or being tutored to get the highest mark possible to get into a certain university degree, what happens when it works? Will the extra support continue? Children who get into selective streams or university courses that are beyond their capacity can then struggle with confidence and motivation.

Far better to help our children discover their strengths and passions as well as appreciating the results of hard work.

The new Teen Age cover small

Extract from The New Teen Age by Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble. (Murdoch Books RRP $32.99) How to support today’s tweens and teens to become healthy, happy adults.

Being a parent of a teenager can be daunting. How do we help them navigate the modern world while keeping them safe and happy? Their physical and psychological changes throw up a while range of issues that we aren’t always equipped to handle. Here, finally, is a practical and direct guide for parents that covers the lot. Phew! Amanda Keller OAM
(Amanda is an Australian television and radio presenter, comedian, writer, actor, journalist and media personality, best known as the host of the popular Australian lifestyle program The Living Room.)