Helicopter parenting: What can modern parents do to help their children become independent?

Most parents would do anything for their kids — after all, they just want what's best for them.

But what if continually being at your child's beck and call actually meant they failed to become independent and launch into adulthood?

With more young adults dependent on their families and childhood anxiety rates higher than ever before, parenting expert and author Michael Grose said parents need to take a step back and give their kids room to find their own feet.

"As parents we need to remember that our job is to make ourselves redundant from the earliest possible age and make our kids independent," Mr Grose told ABC Radio Canberra.

"All parents want their kids to be happy and successful and confident, and the best way we've done that in the past is independence building — but we seem to be retreating from that independent approach over the past few decades.

"Now we do a bit too much for them, don't expect enough from them at home and are probably a bit too protective of them as well."

Mr Grose said "spoonfeeding" children had given rise to a generation of risk-averse kids who remained financially and emotionally reliant on their parents well into their 20s.

He said that while parents meant well by protecting their kids, it was better in the long run to stand back and give them more freedom.

"Young people will inevitably risk experiencing failure, discomfort and hurt in the process," he said.

"But accessing and facing risk has always been a part of childhood.

"It's only over the past few decades that much of the unpredictability and uncertainty has been removed from kids' lives, which keeps them dependent on adults for longer."

Busy lives, smaller families behind dependency parenting

Mr Grose said one of the reason for the high level of dependency parenting was the fact many modern families were "rushed" living busy lives.

"Sometimes it's easier to do it ourselves — whether it's to set the table, pack a child's bag," he said.

"In many ways that notion of lack of time is the enemy of independence building."

Mr Grose said the rise of the small family (one or two children) also hindered independence building.

"Smaller families operate quite differently to a large family," he said.

"We tend to do more for our kids, whereas in a large family we tend to delegate more.

"With bigger families we [parents] tend to be the leader of the gang; with smaller families we tend to parent each child individually."

Helicopter parenting v freedom to explore

Mr Grose said a heightened fear that the world was a dangerous place for young people was another factor behind so-called helicopter parenting.

It was this fear that stopped self-confessed helicopter parent Sally from giving her nine-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son the freedom she experienced growing up.

"The idea of sending my kids out into the neighbourhood to ride their bikes fills me with dread," she said.

"Although I grew up in the 1970s playing cricket in the street and walking to friends' houses up to one kilometre away, I find it difficult to allow my kids to have the same freedom.

"Perhaps it's what we know today about things like paedophiles and sun damage which compound normal parental anxieties about letting my children out of sight."

But for father of two Anthony, such freedom to explore the local neighbourhood was at the forefront when he and his wife chose their Canberra home.

"We selected the local school so they've got friends nearby — we've found that to be a great thing for our kids' freedom, that they can just run up the street to a friend's place," he said.

"My son's 11 and he spends the weekend visiting his friends; we're in touch with all the parents, we know where they are pretty much.

"Also walking to school, letting themselves in — that's a really important part of freedom for the kids and their ability to navigate the world."

Developing self-help skills

Supporting your child to build independence does not have to involve letting them roam the streets on their own — there are plenty of ways parents can encourage the development of self-help skills, Mr Grose said.

He said parents just need to look out for opportunities to allow their child to develop autonomy and constantly ask themselves: "Is this something that my child can do?"

"Self-help skills are those ordinary, everyday skills which kids naturally want to do when they're two or three, [for example] if they're having a bath they want to get in the bath themselves rather than be lifted," he said.

"We often allow that with younger kids but forget to do it when they're older.

"So as kids move through their primary years get them to do jobs for themselves to look after themselves — whether it's preparing their own snacks, whether it's packing their own bags."

Mr Grose said confidence was built on competencies.

"That notion of being able to look after yourself and developing those basic competencies of life is the first step in developing real confidence and self-esteem," he said.

"I always say to parents — when kids can do things, then start to step back and allow them to do them."