What is your happiest childhood memory?

Centacare parenting educator Kay Buckley recalls the freedom of growing up in the ‘50s – and crossing one of the nation’s busiest thoroughfares on her 2km walk to school each day.

“I lived in Sydney and I’d cross the Hume Highway – without traffic lights, on my own, at six! That was normal back then.

“In the 1980s when I was bringing up my own kids, we lived on a fruit block and they’d be gone from morning ’til night. Now most parents are reluctant to let their kids walk to the end of the street.’’

As parents become increasingly confused about what children can and cannot do, young people’s resilience – and their freedom to learn and grow – is gradually being eroded and replaced with fear, Kay says.

Our fears are often unlikely but our fears are likely to become more likely if we don’t skill our kids up
Kay Buckley, parenting educator


In response, Centacare is encouraging parents to use practices that build competence, optimism and capability. Allowing children to take some risks also helps to nurture resilience and persistence, Kay says.

“Our fears are often unlikely but our fears are likely to become more likely if we don’t skill our kids up.

“Children have always been able to take risks and if we don’t let them take little ones incrementally, with some scaffolding and support around them, then there’s a certain inevitability about what they may do as adolescents.

“We complain that our children can’t do anything or won’t do anything, but we don’t give them life skills and freedom because we do everything for them. We don’t coach them anymore; we stand there clapping on the sidelines. We should be giving them instruction.’’

Kay’s 12 ingredients of competence:
  • Offer opportunities for initiative and autonomy at an early age
  • Help build confidence by partialising challenges
  • Stop lecturing, testing and drilling
  • Reinforce your child’s excitement about achievements
  • Recognise effort rather than outcome
  • Create an environment where mistakes are accepted
  • Stop rescuing your child
  • Teach the language of optimism and persistence
  • Model positive self-talk
  • Help children manage strong emotions
  • Affirm your child’s ability to impact their world
  • Encourage responsibility, good judgement and persistence
To nurture resilience in children, Kay recommends:
  • Exposure to healthy role models
  • Discover a sense of spirituality
  • Support them to develop life skills
  • Recognise islands of competence
  • Promote positive self-talk