The Greatest Challenges of Parenting

Well-known child and adolescent psychologist, author and media personality, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, visited The School of Total Education in May 2013 where he presented an informative and entertaining talk to school parents and guests. This article is based on notes taken at this event.

Dr Carr-Gregg began his talk by flagging the “Six Deadly Sins of Parenting”:

  • Helicopter Parenting (too much hovering)
  • Hothouse Parenting (pressure, pressure, pressure)
  • Buddy Parenting (being a friend not a parent)
  • Trophy Parenting (emphasis on results)
  • Bubblewrap Parenting (“precious snow-flake” or “snow-plough”, over-protective)
  • Secondary Parenting (always outsourcing)

These Six Deadly Sins were contrasted with Authoritative Parenting, which is characterised by limit setting and consequential learning, along with respect, trust, good listening, humour, positive feedback, short chats rather than long lectures, and being truly involved in our children’s lives.

Dr Carr-Gregg then focused on five topics which he regarded as crucial in the life of an adolescent: Sleep, Happiness, Alcohol Risks, Cybersafety and Resilience.


Sleep is the greatest challenge for the adolescent. Good sleep is essential for health, however more than 68% of adolescents don’t get enough of it. When we are sleep-deprived the chemical cortisol increases in our body and this leads to an increase in impulsive behaviour, a decrease in concentration, empathy, sense of humour and, if severe, long-term health risks such as diabetes.

Seven recommendations for improved sleep:

  1. Dim lights 3/4 hour before bed. The brain detects a decrease in the ambient light level which leads to secretion of elatonin, and this induces drowsiness.
  2. Regular bedtime and get-up times.
  3. Quiet, cool, dark bedroom.
  4. Minimise anxiety. Techniques for relaxation, mindfulness and listening are helpful. As well there are apps such as “Smiling Mind”.
  5. Avoid stimulants in the afternoon and evening.
  6. Turn the digital clock away or don’t use one. The glow from a digital clock can disrupt sleep.
  7. Warm drinks such as Chamomile tea, peppermint tea or milk heated for 1 min 36 secs (which stimulates the secretion of melatonin). Also the product “Chillax”, which contains cherries, taken 30ml twice daily.

Secrets of Happiness

Dr Carr-Gregg gave the following tips for a happier life:

  1. See life as it is but focus on the good bits.
  2. Stop and notice (awareness, mindfulness).
  3. If you want to feel good, do good. (Kindness boosts the immune system — this has been measured scientifically)
  4. When we’re together everything’s better — the importance of family, friendship, connectedness.
  5. If you can’t change something, change the way you think about it.
  6. The meaning of life is a life with meaning.
  7. Find time to lose yourself in what you love.
  8. Set goals.
  9. Don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides (we don’t know what other people are going through).
  10. Keep active and relaxed (exercise, sport, relaxing activities).

Alcohol Risks

Dr Carr-Gregg emphasized the risks of early consumption of alcohol in terms of dependency in later life, as well as the potential detrimental effects on the wiring of the brain.

Statistics show that 47% of those who start drinking at 14 and only 9% of those who start after 21 will become alcohol dependent. We were reminded that the frontal cortex is not fully developed in males until age 27, and in females, age 23. The liver can process only one standard drink per hour.


Parents were referred to the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) website:, which has sections for young people as well as parents, The average adolescent spends more than seven hours per week online. Young people need to be aware that future employers will look at their Facebook page. Parents can restrict the websites available to their children on their phone or computer.


Finally, studies have highlighted four key characteristics of resilient children who prospered despite traumatic experiences:

  1. Contact with a charismatic and supportive mentor, imparting self worth, problem solving ability and social-emotional strengths.
  2. Modelling of optimistic thinking.
  3. Islands of competence identified (range of strengths).
  4. Spirituality — sense of connectedness to something greater than themselves.

Parents were encouraged to seek help from a health professional if their children were experiencing persistent anxiety, anger or depression. Lifeline, Kidshelpline, beyondblue and headspace all have useful sites.

Further information can be found on Michael Carr-Gregg’s website ( and in his books, including Surviving Adolescents — The must-have manual for all parents.

About the Author

Michael Carr-Gregg photo

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg works as a nationally registered child and adolescent psychologist working in private practice in Melbourne. He is passionate about delivering evidence based psychology workshops and seminars that make a difference to the health and wellbeing of young people.

This article was compiled from notes taken at a talk given by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg at The School of Total Education on 27th May 2013. The event was sponsored by Medicare Local and was open to parents from all schools in Warwick. (Published on web site: November 2013)