Daisy Turnbull reveals marriage breakdown and strategy for raising happy kids
Daisy Turnbull reveals marriage breakdown and strategy for raising happy kids

Daisy Turnbull reveals marriage breakdown

Put away the bubble wrap and get out the knives. Young children need risk in their lives and using sharp knives, lighting candles and falling off scooters are all excellent ways to build resilient, independent and confident young people.

Combating helicopter parenting and a "bubble-wrapped generation" of children, high school teacher Daisy Turnbull has written her first book titled 50 Risks to Take With Your Kids, offering practical suggestions for taking measured risks with your children up to the age of 10.


The daughter of former Sydney mayor Lucy Turnbull and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, Daisy Turnbull (along with brother Alex, 39) was born in the 80s, a Millennial, who was allowed to ride her bike in the streets after school, walk to the shops without parents on the weekend or, thrillingly, take the bus with a friend to the movies. She remembers her childhood fondly with lots of outdoor play and family time.

 

 

Turnbull, 36, now has kids of her own - Jack, 7, and Alice, 4. But times have changed. Parenting has become more risk averse with children more sheltered and more parents who hover protectively. There is also seemingly plenty for parents, particularly mothers, to feel guilty about.

Author, Sydney high school teacher and mum of two, Daisy Turnbull. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen
Author, Sydney high school teacher and mum of two, Daisy Turnbull. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

Turnbull says her idea for the book began "as a joke in a WhatsApp chat" in June 2019 with Hardie Grant book editor Arwen Summers, who was working on Malcolm Turnbull's 2020 memoir A Bigger Picture.

Daisy Turnbull, who is director of wellbeing at independent Sydney girls' school St Catherine's and an accredited Lifeline crisis support counsellor, was chatting with Summers about a recent seminar she attended by American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt about resilience.

"Arwen has young kids as well … I was telling her all this stuff about resilience and how we want kids to be resilient," Turnbull says.

"I said I wished there was a list of things to do for your kids to become good adults and good humans. So I just started writing a list and Arwen said it could actually be a good idea for a book."

Turnbull began the project seriously in October 2019, finishing in April 2020.

Her 50 risks fall into categories of physical risks (that "may result in minor injuries"), social risks (that make them a better friend, family member and colleague) and character risks (using a child's inner strength to develop identity and character) and progress in a general ascending order by age.

 

The first (she admits it might seem like the lamest of risks) is simply to lay your baby on a blanket on the floor while you have a shower or walk away for a few minutes.

For kids aged one to four, she suggests eating sand, playing with sticks, climbing a tree, being bored, getting out of routine, falling off a bike or scooter, and cleaning up their own mess.

Risks progress up to things such as starting conversations with people, learning to use a knife, lighting candles, keeping something alive (such as a plant or pet), going somewhere alone, catching the bus, cooking, writing a thank you note, and sleeping outside.

Her 50 suggested risks aim to do their part in developing children who are "confident, autonomous, compassionate and responsible" and being all-round "excellent humans".

Turnbull says she is "not a perfect mother" and her children "are far from perfect children", she writes. "But I do believe in developing autonomy in the kids and raising them to be kind, curious and critical thinkers. We want our kids to develop the 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. Let them try, and fall, and fail."

Former PM Malcolm Turnbull pictured with his grandson Jack, daughter Daisy and wife Lucy at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith
Former PM Malcolm Turnbull pictured with his grandson Jack, daughter Daisy and wife Lucy at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith

Writing in the book's foreword, clinical psychologist Dr Judith Locke says the book gives parents a "crucial to-do list" to support their children in taking essential risks in an age group where parents can "exponentially build children's future confidence and capabilities".

Locke says children benefit from facing risks in terms of boosting confidence, learning to cope when things don't work out and discovering fear is often a sense of anticipation and not something to necessarily avoid. It also increases the confidence of parents.

Turnbull holds a combined Bachelor's degree in Arts/Commerce, a Graduate Diploma of Secondary Teaching and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Her interest in psychology has led her to begin a Master of Educational Psychology at The University of Sydney.

Daisy Turnbull in happier times with her Australian Army veteran and 2nd Cavalry officer husband James Brown, with children Jack and Alice at Bondi, Sydney. Picture: Craig Wilson
Daisy Turnbull in happier times with her Australian Army veteran and 2nd Cavalry officer husband James Brown, with children Jack and Alice at Bondi, Sydney. Picture: Craig Wilson

Last year, she separated from her husband James Brown, with the pair adopting a 50-50 co-parenting arrangement. She says she talks to her mum, known as Gaga to her grandkids (the former PM is Baba), every day. They often talk about the differences between generations and parenting styles. "I grew up in the 80s which was riskier in a good way," Turnbull says.

"There weren't so many concerns around kids walking down the street or bike riding around the block. On a holiday at (Sydney's) Northern Beaches one year - I was about 11 or 12 - and I caught the bus with a friend from Palm Beach to Avalon to see a movie. Dad told us, 'If you hit Wynyard (in Sydney's CBD) you've gone too far, turn around and come back!'

"As a kid, I remember feeling really excited by the responsibility we were given and that we were trusted by our parents.

"For my own kids, I want them to be responsible, resilient, have autonomy and their own sense of judgment. We are learning that the more we over-protect kids, the less safe they feel as adults."

Turnbull is a great believer in a quote from Jonathan Haidt who has said, "the goal of the parent is to work yourself out of a job".

"The idea is you do less eventually," she says.

"Kids should be doing things for themselves but we often forget that we need to teach them how to do those things - whether it's making their own lunch or getting dressed in the morning for school.

"In (school) teaching you do something called backward mapping - we work out what we want students to be able to do by the time they finish modern history in Year 12. But first we look at what we want to be able to do at the end of Year 10 and Year 8.

"When I was writing the book, I was very much thinking in terms of what you want a Grade 7 kid to be able to do."

But Turnbull is also adamant she doesn't want her book to be its own cause of stress to parents who might feel "they now have 50 more things to do".

"I hope a lot of the risks listed are actually reassuring to parents because they may have already done that with their child or they realise they could go a bit further."

 

50 Risks to Take With Your Kids, by Daisy Turnbull, Hardie Grant Books, $25.

 

Originally published as Daisy Turnbull reveals marriage breakdown


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