Two mums debate the ultimate modern parenting dilemma.

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Have you got ‘kidults’ that refuse to move out of home? Or perhaps your child is a nervous wreck, falling apart under pressure.

According to Michael Grose, it’s all your fault. Well, mostly.

His latest book The Spoonfed Generation accuses parents of doing too much for their kids.

All that bag-packing and steak-cutting has destroyed their independence. You’ve ruined them.

So when the parenting expert joined the This Glorious Mess podcast this week, it stirred a bit of a debate in the podcast studio.

Jo Abi, as regular listeners of the podcast will know, uses a tracking app to keep tabs on her family and thinks stalking her children is her God-given right. So Michael’s advice to back off and let them be independent didn’t sit well.

Holly Wainwright on the other hand, was hanging off Michael’s every word and taking notes on how she can turn her tiny dependants into well-adjusted kids, before it’s too late.

So what do you do when two mums disagree wildly on the best way to raise kids? You sit them down together and make them fight talk it out. Let the battle begin…

Listen to the full interview with Michael Grose below, then read on to hear Holly and Jo’s very different thoughts on over-parenting.

HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: So, Jo, you and I had pretty different reactions to Michael’s advice about how to raise independent adults. He argues parents are doing way too much for their kids and turning them into anxious, ineffectual grown-ups.

You think that’s bullshit. Why?

JO ABI: I think it’s bullshit because his entire premise blames parents for raising fragile, anxious kids. That is total bullshit. Parents are victims of the expectations and demands of modern life which has left us with NO CHOICE but to parent the way in which we do.

HW: But he’s actually arguing about the generation of parents just above us, who are responsible for all the “kidults” we see around us. His point is that we should learn from their mistakes. Don’t you think he has a point?

JA: No, because generations of parents simply raise their kids in the way they need to based on the cultural expectations they are presented with at the time.

Parents don’t cause the problems, they are left to come up with solutions and ways to raise kids and get to work in order to fulfil expectations they had no say in establishing. Parents aren’t the ones who raised property prices, causing both parents to have to work, therefore have to get kids to school on time. Parents are the ones who decided that the school day starts at 8.30 and finishes at 3, but the work day is much longer…


HW: No, but there’s nothing wrong with offering some solutions to help us handle these issues.

He argues we do too much for our kids, so they don’t learn how to do things for themselves. I’m trying to follow his advice: Don’t do anything for your child they can do for themselves. What do you think?

JA: Parents don’t get to spend much time with their kids these days and it sucks. What’s wrong with doing things for them during the time we are with them? That’s what nurturing is. It doesn’t mean that kids can’t do stuff for themselves.

It’s like he’s saying every time I bring my child a glass of water I’m causing him to be useless and anxious. No, that’s love and caring and nurturing. When I am working late he gets his own water. Sometimes I bring my husband water. Sometimes my son brings me water. Families care about each other and do things for each other. It’s not spoiling them, it’s demonstrating love and care and I want my children to learn how to love and care and nurture more.

Jo Abi with Philip, Giovanni and Caterina.

HW: But it's not about water, Jo, it's about everything. It's about being involved in every little thing they do at all times. We live in a culture that makes you feel like a bad parent if you're not doing that.

And to me, it's common sense that that's not healthy. I am terrified about the number of mental health problems young people are suffering, anything I can do to try to build resilient kids, I'm going to try!


JA: Do you think you can totally control how your kids turn out, just by parenting them differently? You are not the only influence in their lives. Maybe you feel that way because your kids are younger?

HW: Of COURSE I don't think that. Grose is not the only one who's saying that too much hand-holding has led to a generation who has 'failure to launch'. Of course that's not the ONLY thing, but it's one thing that we can effect.

I am horrified at the idea of parents, for example, calling up their kids' uni lecturers about their assignments. And that happens.

JA: Yes that does happen, parents overly involved with their kids, but the problem with the book is that it addresses ALL parents as though they are that extreme.

HW: I think, like all parenting books, it addresses a specific issue that you may or may not feel is relevant to your kids. And I think I see parental over-involvement all around me.

JA: Parents are vulnerable, and they swallow all of this judgemental bullshit and automatically question their parenting choices. That's the danger of it. As mothers we need to parent in a way that makes us feel comfortable too. It's about our anxiety too.

This book really pisses me off. "It's a guide to removing fear from kid's lives so that they can make the most of the chances that come their way rather than shrink or withdraw when life places expectations on them." Seriously? You can't remove fear from kid's lives. Fear is there for a reason. You can teach them to handle it, navigate it, manage it, but removing it is dangerous.

HW: It's like the parents at the playground who are all gathered around the bottom of the slide. Because they are there, we all feel we have to be there too. Adults have to learn to let kids fall and fail.

JA: I think some parents are overly involved in the details of their kids lives, but not all, and I also don't think being overly involved (to a point) is a problem. Children take over the reigns of their lives when they are ready. Philip has done that naturally this year upon starting high school and I was ready.

Forcing him to be more independent before he and I were ready would have left both of us anxious.

HW: I agree with him that we parent too much from a place of fear. Fear of everything from the worst of the worst, to just being looked at funny in the playground. It's not healthy.

JA: If you were to stop doing things for your kids, what would they be??


HW: My kids are too small to do lots of things for themselves yet, but the other day I realised I still put out my now-seven-year-old's clothes for her.

WHY DO I DO THAT? Seven is old enough for her to be in charge of her own clothes.

JA: That's true, but by dressing her each morning you're not going to make her anxious or lacking in independence. If you still did it when she was 16 maybe...

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Holly and her family.

HW: I cut up her food for her. The kid barely knows how to use a knife!

JA: She is so cute!

HW: Cute, yes, but also being infantalised. She should be able to use a knife. There is NO WAY my parents would have been cutting up my food for me at seven.

JA: I still cut up Philip's steak! He's 12. I'm from an Italian family, my mum still scrapes food onto my plate from hers.

HW: Ha!

JA: And strangely I am a strong independent woman with a job! How did that happen Michael?

HW: I agree with you 100 per cent that there is no such thing as one-size fits all. But I don't think there's anything wrong with cherry-picking advice that suits you. It's a genuine concern of mine that there's a generation of over-parented kids.


JA: Children learn a lot from siblings. They help each other and that's lovely to see. I see a lot of only children being over-parented and my son's friends who are over-parented seem really startled when they have to suddenly do something for themselves.

HW: Exactly.

JA: But once again that's not the majority and generalised anxiety isn't the parent's fault nor is it so simple. It's complex. It's irresponsible to suggest parents cause children's generalised anxiety. It's a combination of things including social media, peer groups, things they learn at school, events they witness...

HW: It's like this: Imagine your kid doesn't like their teacher. Do you go into to school and try to fix that, maybe get them moved, etc, or do you tell them that they've got to get through this year and suck it up?

JA: It depends. If it's a safety issue, you move them. If not, you empathise with them, which Michael says in the book. He talks about empathy. But having a meeting with the teacher is a good idea. That's not over-parenting. That doesn't cause anxiety.

He wants kids to do as much for themselves as they can and that's just not realistic. I have to get to work, they have to get to school, I can't pay the school fees if I don't get to work. He is giving advice from a Utopian perspective and it's just impossible, the result being that parents are left feeling guilty again, and blaming themselves, again!

Although his book will make an excellent lining for the bottom of my budgie cage, so not all bad.

Matilda won't just learn to cut food by trying to cut it, she'll also learn from watching you.
I have to record a video of my boobs now. Have we done enough? By the way I love you and everything you do and say. Let's not let Michael stupid-face come between us.

HW: No way. She hasn't yet!

Jo, I think you're the best parent ever. Different viewpoints are interesting, it's not personal.

JA: You are the best parent ever.

HW: Ultimately, as you say, we all end up parenting in a way that we can live with.

To hear Holly and Jo debate more parenting issues including lunchbox politics, listen to the latest episode of This Glorious Mess here:

You can buy Michael Grose's book Spoonfed Generation or any other book mentioned on our podcasts from iBooks at, where you can also subscribe to all our other shows in one place.