"They get quite confrontational." How 'concierge parenting' is making the lives of teachers so much harder.

The phenomenon of ‘concierge parenting’ is one teachers in primary and high schools around Australia are likely very familiar with.

It refers to the practice of parents acting as a ‘concierge’ for their children – sitting and waiting for any problems they might encounter, ready to remedy the situation immediately.

It’s the parent who rings the school to get their child out of detention, or, as in one example shared in a column published in The Sydney Morning Herald, offers to do the detention for their child.

According to David Gillespie, author of Teen Brain, this type of parenting is “something parents do to remove all negative natural consequences for a child, which is unhelpful as natural consequences are the most effective way anyone can learn anything.”

As Gillespie explained, “it means schools are operating defensively. Teachers are worried there’s going to be parent in the office by the end of the day, because their child has been made to suffer a natural consequence. So, they’re more likely to put up with bad behaviour.”

So – how does concierge parenting actually affect how teachers perform their role? And what impact does this behaviour from parents have on their wellbeing?

Claire, a teacher from Sydney: it creates more work.

“The concierge parenting phenomenon does start young, but I have seen it most intensely when teaching students at HSC level.

“Having taught at independent schools in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and North Shore, you can see the significant financial investment that parents make in their children’s education.

“So, when students received assessment task results they or their parents weren’t happy with, the teacher was often blamed, or asked to reassess the mark. One assessment task might be worth 10-20% of one subject for the year, but parents can see a poor mark in one task as ruining their child’s whole HSC.

“Now, ‘as a mother’ I understand more of the emotion that parents were experiencing when they called me up to complain. But I can also see that students really do grow and mature when they can fight their own battles and take initiative to ask a teacher how they can improve, rather than get their parents to complain.”

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Jemma, an early years teacher: kids stop trying.

“I struggle seeing parents stopping their children experiencing natural consequences all the time. Mostly, in the early years, I see parents struggling to let children make mistakes, learn from them and develop persistence.

“Too often parents are jumping in to “help” or “teach” when kids need to experience trial and error and figure things out on their own. As a result I see children in grade one not able to try a few times, have tantrums when things don’t go their way or even dress themselves.

“I find I look like the awful person because I encourage a ‘step back’ approach to really observe what children can accomplish on their own.”

Mel, a teacher who has worked in co-ed and single-sex schools: boys and girls are treated differently.

“In my experience there are a lot of mums who seem to feel the need to ‘rescue’ their boys from consequences.

“My possibly controversial feeling is that we sometimes just expect and allow girls to take on responsibility sooner.

“I see a very particular bond between mums and sons [because] boys mostly mature later than girls, and the trouble they often get in is sometimes more obvious (hitting, punching, fighting as opposed to the ‘silent bullying’ practices of girls).”

Sam, a teacher with leadership experience: students use a lot of school resources.

“Students who aren’t able to suffer natural consequences, don’t hand their work in on time, are perfectionists, avoiders, and procrastinators.

“Parents are backing them when they display any of these behaviours, and can get quite confrontational with teachers. We as teachers walk a fine line between supporting students and challenging students to be better than they are capable of. Not all parents understand this is a fine line we walk every day, usually with 15-30 students at any one time.

“I have been very badly treated, spoken to by parents when their son daughter has been criticised/reprimanded for bad behaviour, [they’ve complained] I haven’t called home when students haven’t submitted work, or lost their belongings.

“At the far end of the spectrum, we see school refusal, anxiety disorders, self harming, eating disorders, and depression. These issues point to students being unable to cope with natural consequences.

“These students use a lot of school resources; Year Level coordinators, homeroom teachers, classroom teachers.

“If you let kids fail, feel it and them move on, its going to be beneficial for everyone.”

How can parents stop practising concierge parenting?

“Think of what’s at stake, beyond your child’s immediate gratification,” Gillespie suggests.

“Truly examine why you’re making a choice, then choose your battles, say no to the important things.”

What do you think of concierge parenting? Tell us in the comments below.

If you’d like to hear more from Nama Winston, see her stories here, and subscribe to her weekly Mamamia Parents newsletter here.