British children 'babied' by intrusive parents, says MP

Baby and parents Some parents "subjugate their own ambition into their kids", said Claire Perry

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UK children are being "babied" by overly-intrusive parents, leaving them unable to cope as they grow up, an adviser to David Cameron has said.

Conservative MP Claire Perry criticised parents for filling children's lives with too many organised activities, in an interview with the Times.

Parents were also failing to lay down the law and set "limits", she said.

Campaigners said politicians should stop "telling us how to be better parents" and focus on childcare policy.

Mrs Perry, who is the PM's adviser on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, said over-parenting was stifling children's ability to fend for themselves.

"We've created a treadmill, it's usually the mother that is orchestrating all of that and doing all the driving," she said.

"We worship this feminine motherhood thing and I don't think our children have benefited actually. They're babied a lot."

'Difficult stuff'

The mother of three, who took a seven-year break from her career in management consulting to look after her young children, explained mothers often became part of the problem because their own work-life balance struggled when starting a family.

Start Quote

Good parenting isn't just about making sure they come top in maths”

End Quote Claire Perry Adviser to David Cameron

"A lot of it is women who, because it is difficult to get on, subjugate their own ambition into their kids," she said.

"That makes it harder when they get to university and realise they haven't got a mother to help them with their homework, watching their every move. We've all done it."

She added she once tended to "hover" over her children: "Now, I just can't, so I don't, and I think they're probably better off as a result."

At the same time, Mrs Perry warned children were not being taught about the real dangers in life, especially the internet - which parents did not fully understand.

She said: "Good parenting isn't just about making sure they come top in maths, but all the difficult stuff too. If they don't learn the limits from us, who will tell them?"

Mrs Perry said most parents were too busy or ignorant to realise what their children were doing online.

"They are living in a digital oblivion," she said.

'Helicopter parents'

Social commentator Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent said parents were under "enormous pressure" from schools and society to mould their children and oversee their achievements.

"They find it difficult to let go and this cultivates a sense of dependency."

He added universities often had to adjust for incoming students "lacking a sense of maturity" with first year lecturers forced "to act like teachers, helping pupils along".

But Mrs Perry's views came under fire from Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, who insisted parents were "doing their best" and were "knackered most of the time".

She told BBC News: "Mothers are, sadly, used to copping a lot of blame - but being charged with being over-protective, cupcake-baking helicopter parents at the same time as being feckless, couch potatoes who let their children have unfettered internet access is a bit rich.

Claire Perry Mrs Perry said mothers were often the ones creating a "treadmill" for children

"Of course there are some 'tiger mum' types who are micromanaging packed improvement schedules for their children... but on Mumsnet certainly, they are far outweighed by others who share Clare Perry's view that unstructured time is really important."

Ms Roberts added: "Politicians could more usefully perhaps focus on improving local schools, job prospects, childcare options and flexible work solutions than telling us how to be better parents."

Labour MP Frank Field, who advised the coalition government on children's foundation years, also criticised Mrs Perry's comments as "amazing".

He highlighted the "desperate" situation for many disadvantaged children in the UK, urging the MP "not to attack those parents investing heavily in their children, but to find out why the vast majority of young people want to be good parents and yet a very, very, very substantial group of them fail to do so".

However Anna May Mangan, mother of four and author of Getting into Medical School: The Pushy Mother's Guide, told the BBC that being a hands-on parent was important because "our schools don't teach children to be competitive".

She said she had adopted a "praying mantis" style to help her children get into university, adding: "You can't choose for your child, but you can certainly support them when they know what they want to do."

Mrs Perry became the prime minister's adviser on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood in December 2012.

Proposals put forward by the Devizes MP include age ratings for sexually provocative music videos, restrictions on access to so-called "lads' mags", labelling on airbrushed photos in magazines and internet safety classes in schools.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Possibly true, but am so bored of hearing what we do wrong. I look forward to the day when a press release praises parents / teachers / social workers / carers for getting a darn thing right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    What a load of tosh this article is. Every parent brings up their children in their own way, and for the vast majority of parents this works out just fine. Are the Tories wheeling out these rentaquote back-benchers to detract from their risible performance of late? I can't see any other reason for a political non-entity like Mrs Perry to suddenly surface on the interweb with such spurious advice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    My circle of friends are mostly middle class and I'm always astounded at the behaviours their children (pre-teens) exhibit on a regular basis. Tantrums, blue tirades, complete disregard for private / public property, outrageous demands for attention and or money. I can only assume these parents lives are already to stressful so they let their precious offspring get away with it...just this once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    We're creating a society where nobody is allowed to fail. People are helped through at every stage. Schools - Children are taught to pass tests. Employment - It's very hard to remove employees who simply cannot perform. It's just perpetuated.

    This has now become the expectation, possibly because from a very young age, children are being treated as if the world owes them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    And then when they get to school the accountability culture, league tables and performance related pay linked to results means that it just continues - no need for young people to take any responsibility since others are held to account for their results - not the young people themselves. Then on it goes to the next generation. Something is very wrong and very broken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Good advice, however, I wish someone would tell the government to stop treating the adult population as babies too and roll back the Nanny State. Allowing legal cannabis consumption for grown ups would be a good start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Yup....s`well as adults showing clear signs of embracing infantile behaviours and attitudes..

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Mom to two children. Thanks for the laugh. The silliness of this article wll remain with me all day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Some of the younger people we have interviewed for work seem to be unable to do their own shoe laces up. It is clear they have been cosseted their whole life and cannot plan, and sort out any simple projects without massive supervision.
    I have found the best are the ones who have had a gap year travelling. It makes them have to think for themselves and makes them better people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Better than leaving them in the pub!

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    It is vital that kids learn to take knocks, to stand fast, to not give up.

    Unfortunately we have become a nation who tell their children they are brilliant and when they fail tell them it "was the referee" or "the other team cheated" or "the weather was against us".

    Children are often far tougher, mentally, than their parents and can handle defeat, pick themselves up and go again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Part of the trouble are parents that expect others to raise their children for them. Schools etc are there to support, not act as surrogate parents.
    The quicker society reinforces the primary responsibility authority and accountability of parents the better. Support them where necessary, but call them to account when they abdicate their responsibilities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Probably the tories warming the voters up for more cuts to education and child benefit.

  • Comment number 2.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Someone has to look after the young, my dear Dave..


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