07/10/2012 18:47 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Surviving Teenagers: Do We Do Too Much For Them?

Teenager and mother Alamy

Do we do too much for our teenagers? Hover around them like valets in Downton Abbey?

I heard about Claire Potter on the radio. She set her son Fred 13 challenges as he reached his 13th birthday, all planned to teach him the skills he needed for grown-up life.

These included getting on a train on his own, cooking a meal, doing 13 household tasks and buying himself a whole outfit for £13.13.

Fred did really well. Claire sounds like exactly the kind of mother I should be.

Well, I thought to myself, it's never too late to change.

My 19-year-old is going back to university. He's moving into a shared house in a part of the city where burglars don't even bother to break in. They know about students. They just wait for someone to leave the front door open.

"So," I say, as we drive to the supermarket, "have you thought about insurance?"

Normally, of course, I would have just bought it for him. But I have turned over a new leaf.
He frowns. He's good at frowns. I suspect he's practised them over the years to give the impression of listening with deep attention when his mind is actually elsewhere.

"You need to cover your phone and laptop," I say. "I'll give you the money when you've found the best deal."

He's still frowning. Claire Potter would probably have left it there. But I plough on. I say, "Shall I write that down so you don't forget?"

He looks hurt. "No," he says. "I'm on it."

The night before he goes back, his possessions are still strewn round the house. He wanders around, picking up the odd coat hanger and putting it down again.

I crack. I say, "Have you remembered about the insurance?"

"I'm going to do it now," he says, with great dignity.

He leaves me standing at the bottom of the stairs feeling that I've got the whole thing horribly wrong.