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 35.

    I blame the parents...... and the children

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I think there is possibly some truth in it but it may not lay at the fault of the parents and instead at the different expectations youngsters have these days. By the time my older sister and I turned 18 we were able to cook a meal for the family and help around the house. My younger sister had to ask how to cook "boil in the bag rice" at 18!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    and cameron is a expert ? i dont think so he left his kids in a pub, then cut the benefits that he was previously claiming for ivan.

    so he is like a big child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    It is pretty pathetic how overprotective parents are. newsflash for you:
    There is not a paedophile lurking behind every tree
    A scratch or bruise does not mean child abuse
    Kids are not totally useless, they can be allowed to do things and make mistakes and the world will not end.
    Also, sorry to break it to you, your kid is most probably not Eintein, and does not have special needs

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    You can tell that Eastleigh has rattled the Tories when you get a politician no one has heard of coming out with this nanny state rubbish to try and detract attention from the results of the recent by election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    wont let your children - play out alone, go to the park, have friends round from school, play boardgames with them, get a bus aone,

    will let your children - unprotected online, up late playing console and sleepy in school, run around crazy indoors with no concern for all others living arround you, use a pushchair as a pavement ram,

    and, and...

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    After reading this I struggle to see what qualifies Mrs Perry to advise the prime minister on parenting other than the fact she is a parent herself which many of us are.
    In a 21 century country is to much to ask that policy is informed by scientific analysis of statistics and independent research rather than the opinions and prejudices of one individual with no evidence to back it up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    As I sit here on a Spring-like day, my 10 year old son has been playing a football match for his team and has arranged to meet lads at the local park to have a game of football. He and his friend have walked there themselves and regularly do this at weekends if their teams matches are on early. I cannot understand parents not allowing their children to go out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    This is so true today. Our oldest grandchildren, (18 and 19) are incapable of making themselves a simple meal. I think if their parents were to go on holiday without them, they'd starve. My own children set limits, but the grandchildren constantly push these and my kids soon give in. Nowadays you can but advise your children. You certainly can't tell them what to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I struggle to believe this woman's advice is unbiased based on her own position.
    The bit about the dangers of the internet is ridiculous Luddite talk. The internet is only dangerous if kids are prohibited, rather than taught about it.
    Performance drop at college/uni tends to be linked to natural biologically induced development (e.g. hormones: nature, rather than nurture)

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The British way of raising children has always been to make those children dependent. Compare to other parts of the world such as Japan and Africa where children are raised to be independent. British caregivers are always encouraged to have their children attached to them. Social workers are taught that if children are not attached to their parents, they should be removed. This scare parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I often see adults walking about town dressed as children (shorts, t-shirt, baseball cap and 'trainers'). Perhaps this explains why.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Parents are scared to say 'no' to kids and gawd help if its any negitivity around them, plus reason why 'kids' still live at home is that the thought of them living in a mouldy flat without Mammy paying/looking after them freaks them out, and some parents.
    Keep treating them with baby gloves and they will not grow up.
    Plus all scared of hard work as well as they expext to be given everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    7. I completely agree with this.

    I'm currently in my final year of Uni and I am so grateful to have deferred my entry and had a gap year. The gulf between those entering the uni system after a year out and those who are thrust straight in from A-Levels really is astonishing. A lot of the latter don't even understand basic hygiene and take pride in the upkeep of their residence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    'Woman with children tells other people with children that they are doing it all wrong'.

    Her sole qualification here seems to be the fact that she has children. I can't see anything else in her background that qualifies her to give the nation advice on child-rearing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    what do you expect when the state can take your kids into care if your not doing enough for them

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I was far too cared for; completely useless at everything up till the age of 18.

    University changed my life-skills completely - and most students experience something similar.

    I guess the real answer isn't to parent any less, but to not let it stop 'overnight', and to 'teach' more.

    My parents should have stopped cleaning my clothes, stopped cooking for me etcetera long before university.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Too many parents these days are absolved of their responsibility for their own errors by others around them, the media and those on social media.

    We've seen numerous things in the last couple of years that can be directly attributed to the failings of the parents - but if you say so, you get shouted down.

    We need to stop the "oh it's not their fault, it's someone else's" routine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Slow news day then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    If it was up to Call Me Dave's rabble they'd be up chimneys


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