Daisy TURNBULL - “Mum taught me to be strong”
The Australian Women's Weekly|February 2021
In an era of helicopter parenting, Daisy Turnbull says risk-taking can set our children free. She and mum Lucy share childhood stories with Juliet Rieden and discuss the key to developing resilience in tomorrow’s adults.
Juliet Rieden
Alice is out with Mummy and Gaga, scampering barefoot around the impressive Wild Play adventure garden in Sydney’s Centennial Park. The four-year-old is pretending to be a scary monster creeping up behind her elders as she runs along a slatted wood and rope bridge and then disappears into the bushes giggling. Alice is both the centre of attention and mistress of her own destiny as she dashes around the woodlands. It’s a joyous scene, albeit set up for The Weekly’s ‘three generations of feisty Turnbull women’ photoshoot, that underlines the power of good old-fashioned outdoor fun.

Daisy Turnbull thinks our children need more of this sort of play – climbing trees, building camps, bush walking and scraping knees, and there’s no question Alice is having a ball as she throws herself into the garden’s bamboo forest and banksia tunnels, and squeals with delight when unannounced the artesian water play area spurts jets of water high into the air.

It may all sound very Enid Blyton, but Daisy knows what she’s talking about. As a secondary school teacher and mum of two she has witnessed how an era of helicopter parenting and mother guilt has resulted in a lack of confidence and independent spirit in our children, which at worst can develop into anxiety and mental health issues. Daisy teaches history, business studies and religion in an independent girls’ school and also recently became the director of wellbeing, which is sort of how she ended up writing the book we are here to discuss – 50 Risks To Take With Your Kids.

This informal, accessible guide postulates risk-taking – in a controlled and definitely not traumatic way – to be extremely valuable in childhood development. Daisy outlines a whole raft of risks parents might encourage their children to take in their first 10 years to help enjoy those precious early learning years and at the same time be more prepared to face the challenges of adolescence and adulthood ahead and become “excellent humans”. It’s what we all want, but in today’s uncertain world having the courage to let go as a parent is harder than it seems.

Daisy is super smart, dripping with qualifications, but her book is no academic text. It’s fun and well … really useful. Of course, it’s based on educational and psychological research but suggests things like letting your kids do the washing, go to the local shops and catch the bus. “I am not a perfect mother. My children are far from perfect children … But I do believe in developing autonomy in the kids,” writes Daisy. “We want our kids to develop skills to pick themselves up when they fall, to know when to ask for help and who to ask, but also to be confident that they can solve a lot of their problems themselves.”

Daisy is the daughter of former Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull and former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and I suspect she learned some of her most potent lessons firsthand in her own childhood. Her parents, though very busy, gave Daisy and brother Alex a childhood filled with outdoor activity and weekends of “sacred family time” that have certainly shaped her own parenting of son Jack and daughter Alice.

The idea for the book started when Daisy was joking around with her dad’s book editor, Arwen Summers. While Malcolm sweated over his post-politics memoir, Daisy and Arwen would chat. “She has young kids as well and we were saying, there’s so much stuff on resilience but really what we need is a list of stuff you need to do before you’re an adult.”

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