The pitfalls of parenting a highly successful child

Model Miranda Kerr showcases designs by Alex Perry alongside her mother on the catwalk at the David Jones Spring/Summer ...

Model Miranda Kerr showcases designs by Alex Perry alongside her mother on the catwalk at the David Jones Spring/Summer 2009 Collection Launch themed 'A Great Southern Summer 2009' at the Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams

It’s one of the most bittersweet parts of parenthood: if we do our job well, we’ll largely become redundant.

Just how difficult it can be to let adult children live their own lives — especially lives we wouldn’t choose for them — has been laid bare in recent weeks by the parents of two high-profile Australians.

The parents of Miranda Kerr and Grant Hackett’s father have both aired their grievances about their children’s choices and behaviour in the national and international media recently.

Grant Hackett: the former Olympic swimmer denies he's going to rehab.

Grant Hackett: the former Olympic swimmer denies he's going to rehab. Photo: Getty Images

Miranda Kerr's parents Therese and John Kerr used an ABC documentary Family Confidential Episode 2 to express disapproval of their supermodel daughter’s choice of career, former husband [Orlando Bloom], and her parenting, along with their dismay that their now 30-year-old daughter has become more assertive and distant.


"I wish she was just a normal, everyday girl, I really do," said her father.

And her mother, who laments the fact that Miranda hasn’t been home in a year said, "Miranda's life is so different now [and] she's surrounded by 'yes' people all the time."

The Kerr clan.

The Kerr clan. Photo: Supplied by the ABC.

This was followed by, "You have to be in the media to be able to get your message out, but then our little Flynny [Kerr and Bloom’s son] doesn't know what it’s like to walk outside without paparazzi."

Similarly, Grant Hackett’s father, Neville Hackett, treated his Olympian son like a recalcitrant child when he publicly chided Grant for being in denial about his drug addiction and impending admittance into a US rehabilitation facility.

When former swimming champion Grant Hackett arrived in Los Angeles last week he told the media, ‘This is a retreat, to get away for a while, to recharge the batteries which I have been planning for some time.’

Instyle.Sydney.Photo.Sahlan Hayes.SMH Diary.Miranda Kerr at the Instyle and Audi Women of Style Awards. L to R Anne, ...

Instyle.Sydney.Photo.Sahlan Hayes.SMH Diary.Miranda Kerr at the Instyle and Audi Women of Style Awards. L to R Anne, Miranda and Therese Kerr. Photo: Sahlan Hayes SHZ

Hackett’s father quickly contradicted his son on camera: "He thinks he just needs a bit of a recharge and a rest, and that's probably what's in his mind ... but I'd say rehab, firstly assessment and rehab. Certainly something's needed there."

He continued to speculate publicly on his son’s possible substance abuse: "I would suspect Stilnox but I can't be 100 per cent sure and that is why we've taken that action we've taken… We sought expert advice and we had a meeting with these experts and some of his friends and we decided to take the action with Grant without him knowing." 

Perhaps a family intervention was necessary; it’s not the first time Grant Hackett has been embroiled in controversy.

But why the public contradiction and wrist slap by his father? What was to be gained by using the media to undermine and humiliate his son other than to send him a message for being a naughty boy?

Both the Kerr parents and Mr Hackett appear to be loving parents. But, as the cliché goes, the greatest love is selfless love. And that means relinquishing control and respecting their children’s needs and wants, even if it conflicts with their own.

Presumably, letting go is particularly hard for parents who have invested so much in their children's success. The Kerr family moved cities for Miranda's modelling career and were closely involved in developing and running her cosmetics business. And the Hackett family no doubt invested a lot of time and energy in supporting Grant to get to the Olympics.

But the choice and sacrifice to invest so much in their kid’s careers was made by the parents and not by their children. This shouldn’t be used as leverage or ransom to control their kids in their adult lives.

A parent’s job is to prepare their children to choose their own paths, make their own decisions and always keep the key under the mat no matter what. To some extent, both Mrs Kerr and Mr Hackett see this as their role, even though they’re evidently struggling to put it into practice. 

"What I have to do is let go and allow her to be assertive and lead her own life. And I guess for any mum that's a little bit challenging sometimes to do that,"said Mrs Kerr.

And Mr Hackett told the media: "We weren't about to tell the world about this, of course, because we consider it a private family matter, but Grant being who he is, it's all over the media."

Raising children is hard, but letting go of them is even harder. Every little step our kids take away from us — from preferring to play with their preschool buddies instead of us, to that first Christmas they spend away — can hurt like hell.

But allowing children to develop their independence as they grow into adulthood should also be a source of pride and validation. Until we give them our blessing to live their own lives and, yes, even make their own mistakes, we haven’t finished the job.

Kasey Edwards is a best-selling author and writer.


7 comments so far

  • Maybe you have to walk in their shoes. Cleatly their children are badly in need of a reality check and that is what good parenting is about. These days parenting seems to be all about me rather than taking the difficult step of actually being a parent. Miranda and Grant are big spoilt babies who are in love with their reflection in the pool (media) and they both need a good slap.

    Date and time
    March 06, 2014, 7:07AM
    • "Clearly their children are badly in need of a reality check and that is what good parenting is about."

      This would apply to those that were really "children".
      Hackett & Kerr are clearly not. They are adults, and like the rest of us, have the right to make mistakes in their lives, and learn from them. Families are always welcome to give advice and voice their opinions (privately), but ultimately, the individuals need to make their own choices and bear the responsibility of their own lives.

      Maybe this is why we have such an epidemic of "kiddults", because some parents won't let go, keep interfering where they should not, and refuse to step back and allow their adult children to be themselves, whatever that means.

      It's the parent's choice to "invest " in the child, and the child should never be burdened with having to "pay it back" by forever having to dance to the parent's tune.
      Love does not keep score.

      Date and time
      March 06, 2014, 12:39PM
  • I don't think you've really captured the sentiments of the Kerr family accurately or fairly - I don't think they were disapproving or trying to be controlling - to me they were just lamenting they had effectively lost their daughter and sister - they hardly ever see her or her son and as a close family, they were sad about that.

    And with Grant Hackett's dad, I took him to be saying that he loves his son and is willing to do whatever it takes to get him off drugs - a good dad!!

    Date and time
    March 06, 2014, 9:44AM
    • I had a totally different take on the Kerr family from that ep of Family Confidential. They seemed to really like Orlando and were sad that the marriage broke up. I didn't get a sense of disapproval at all. Mostly it was a case of them missing her daughter because they have so little family only contact with her.

      However, her mum did seem a bit miffed that Miranda has decided to take over the running of her beauty product company when she'd been doing it

      Date and time
      March 06, 2014, 10:45AM
      • It sounds great, but it must be difficult for parents in these circumstances, particularly where drugs are involved. Yes, your children may not be children anymore, but you'll never stop being their parents. My parents still worry the life choices of my sibling, despite the fact he's 35! They can't just switch it off.

        Date and time
        March 06, 2014, 10:59AM
        • I disagree. No one / no parent has the right to publicly humiliate another person in public. For all of their well meaning "concern" I doubt their parents gave a moment's thought to the humiliation they have brought upon their child or the damage to their public and professional reputations. It's the parents who aren't acting reasonably not the children who are merely exercising their right to live their lives as they please.

          Date and time
          March 06, 2014, 1:27PM
          • No matter what is going on between famous people and their parents, I doubt that the parents talking to the media about their kids helps their relationship.

            It smacks of "attention seeking behaviour" on the part of the parents, and makes me wonder about the kind people they are, and how they've brought up their problem child....even when drugs are involved. It really isn't helping anyone, airing your dirty laundry in public.

            Date and time
            March 06, 2014, 2:39PM

            Make a comment

            You are logged in as [Logout]

            All information entered below may be published.

            Error: Please enter your screen name.

            Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

            Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

            Error: Please enter your comment.

            Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

            Post to

            You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

            Thank you

            Your comment has been submitted for approval.

            Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.