Some Sydney schools are sending notes home to warn parents off their children's homework, and at least one high school is requiring students to complete assignments in class time, to ensure they are doing their own work.
Parents who rewrite the history essay, polish the English assignment, and say "We got a good mark for science," are in danger of undermining their children's confidence and causing long-term psychological problems, child psychologists warn.
"Unless the children are geniuses, their work is hardly ever going to be as good as an educated parent's, and so they grow up feeling whatever they produce is never going to hit the mark," said Beverley Thirkell, an educational psychologist on the northern beaches.
In a highly competitive world, the rise of the overinvolved "parachute" parent who rescues their children from difficulties is receiving widespread attention in Australia, Britain and the US.
"The message parents send when they do the work for their kids is, 'You can't do it well enough, I'll do it for you,' " said Elbie Van Coller, a school counsellor on the North Shore. "It's producing some very anxious children."
Psychologists say they are seeing many troubled young people from middle-class homes who feel they can never be "good enough". In The Price of Privilege, a new book just out in the US, the psychologist Madeline Levine claims children from affluent middle-class homes are three times more likely than other children to suffer depression and anxiety in later life.
Parents are increasingly worried about their children's future and exert, however subtly, pressure to excel, she says. The more scared the parents, the more controlling they become. Many end up giving more than a helping hand in homework to ensure their child's mark is high...