Apparently 'Sherpa parenting' is now a thing. Here's how to recognise if you're doing it.

So, apparently ‘Sherpa’ parenting is a thing.

According to the theory, the term ‘Sherpa’ parent (borrowed from the Himalayana people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet – renowned for their skill in mountaineering and used to help ferry personal items in rugged terrain) loosely means a parent who carries things for a child capable enough to do it for themselves.

This is different to a concierge parent, who refuses to permit their child to face any natural consequences, or a snowplough parent, who bulldozes any obstacles out of their child’s way.

No, the sherpa parent is more akin to a butler…or a bell boy. This is how one mum described the problem with the sherpa parent:

“Why do mums carry multiple children’s backpacks, tennis racquets, band instruments into and out of school? I fully understand those bags get heavy, especially for the little ones. ‘As a mother’, I hooked my fair share of backpacks on prams when my children were little.

“But doesn’t there come a time when carrying their own bags is part of learning about responsibility?”

The expert’s concerns with parenting in 2019.

So what’s the problem with sherpa parenting, or any of the aforementioned other types of parenting we see in 2019?

Author of Soft Teens and Teen Brain David Gillespie told Mamamia that over the years, parents have been gradually shifting more and more in the direction of over-parenting.

“Parenting advice splintered in the 70s, but there was a dominant theme – being increasingly more child-centric,” he told Mamamia‘s podcast, The Quicky.

“The focus has been on maximising the quality time they get with their kids,” and that’s often to the child’s detriment if it means all of their experiences are positive because they’re getting their way constantly.


Listen to the full chat about parenting with David Gillespie on The Quicky. Post continues after podcast.

Clinical psychologist and author of The Bonsai Child, Dr Judith Locke, agreed, telling The Quicky we currently have a generation of “soft teenagers.”

Her concern was that often parents have created such a perfect childhood for their children, they grow up believing they can be happy and successful all of the time.

“What occurs over time, is it doesn’t create skills in the child like resilience and self-regulation. It makes them weaker and more dependent on parent efforts to make them happy, not their own efforts,” she explained.

What do sherpa parents think?

We asked a group of parents for their take on sherpa parenting, and the general consensus was that sherpa parenting is only a problem if a child could actually do the task for themselves.

“It comes down to age,” Jess said.

“I carry my three-year-old’s preschool backpack because the thing is quite heavy. We have to provide everything except morning tea so I mean clothes, lunch, nappies, bed linen, spare clothes – it’s all in there. That’s a lot for a three-year-old to carry on their own.”

Another mum shared that she wasn’t sure if the term was negatively portraying parents who are simply acting on their parental instincts. “I was once told off for holding my son’s bottle when he was feeding in my lap at 10 months old,” she shared.

“It hadn’t even occurred to me to make him hold his bottle…so this makes me wonder, could it be that it’s just a natural instinct for some parents to do things if they have the capacity, rather than if the kid does?”

Another factor in the performance of sherpa parenting could be the parent’s own capacity – in that moment.


Cass told Mamamia, “My four-and-a-half year old doesn’t have any type of disability, and I carry most of her things most of the time because it’s not worth the battle.

“I choose the times and places I am willing to go into battle about it, and when I want to give her lessons in helping herself.

“Anyone watching and judging can p*ss off to be honest.”

What do those concerned about sherpa parenting think?

“I’m a teacher and so many parents carry their kid’s backpacks to and from school,” Elizabeth said.

“I’ve seen a parent holding three school bags while their kids skip along happily. I think some parents don’t even realise they’re doing it!”

Louise shared that her son’s school principal has greatly influenced her attitude; “She said kids need to carry their own bags and develop their own independence and responsibility from that age.

“Can you imagine a classroom full of kids who don’t know what it’s like to do simple stuff for themselves?”

Rebecca revealed that a recent excursion gave her an insight into her son’s capabilities – and that it was clear she was underestimating him.

“I do a lot for my son, under the assumption that he’s still young and learning and not entirely equipped to do it himself,” she said.

“I was parent helper at four-year-old kindy this morning, so I had an opportunity to have a sneak peek into what his life is like without my constant help. He is beyond capable of doing so much that I normally do for him!

“I feel totally conned.”

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