A parenting crisis is gripping Australia as frustrated mums and dads lose control of their misbehaving children, a groundbreaking study has revealed.
The University of Queensland survey of 4500 parents in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne found they were creating a superbrat generation, with more than half using ineffective discipline techniques. One-third were so concerned about their children's tantrums, violence and mood swings they had resorted to professional help, according to the Every Family report.
The report, released exclusively to The Sunday Mail, calls on the state and federal governments to fund compulsory parenting courses to help families in crisis.
The report's head researcher, Professor Matt Sanders, said a growing number of parents felt totally overwhelmed by the challenge of controlling their children.
The report, which surveyed parents of children aged 4-7, found 52% suffered high levels of stress when dealing with their kids. And almost one-third reported a behavioural or emotional problem with a child in the previous six months.
Professor Sanders said the bulk of misbehaviour in children sprang from parents being unable to say "no" to their kids, always trying to be their friend and caving into their demands.
"They are not recognising that children need parents to be an authority figure," Professor Sanders said. "Giving in to a child leads to them growing up the 'me, me, me, now, now, now' generation."
Other common parenting faults included:
• Failing to be consistent and using vague instructions.
• Using yelling and threats.
• Giving their children attention only when they were misbehaving.
• Failing to encourage children to confront their fears.
Brisbane mum Chrissy Warner said she felt under "enormous pressure" to be a good parent to four-year-old Annabelle. But she admitted her daughter's anti-social behaviour had taken its toll and next month she would attend a parenting course with husband Dave.
"Annabelle is really lovely and is not out of control but she is just a very, very determined little girl and knows what she wants," said Ms Warner, of Kedron. "If you try to stop her she gets really cranky and has trouble stopping herself. Sometimes I just don't know the best way to guide her to stop her. I really feel that I struggle."
Founder of the Tough Love parent support group, Meredith Jordan, said they were receiving an increasing number of calls from parents experiencing difficulties with their children. "It's a situation which has been brought about by parents becoming confused by the advice of experts telling us we need to protect children's fragile ego," she said.
Professor Sanders said parents were crying out for assistance.
"Unless the problems are dealt with early, there is a risk they could turn into serious anti-social behaviour, depression, teenage drug use and significant conflict."
State Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the Government would consider any proposal to "maximise the delivery of parenting courses" through more funding. The Government already provided significant funding to parenting courses such as Queensland's University's Triple P program.