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 75.

    What about this headline. BRITISH ADULTS BEING BABIED BY INTRUSIVE GOVERNMENT NANNY STATE. How did Claire Perry come by this information did she visit every houshold with children in the UK. MP,s talk a load of crap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    I don't know Mrs Perry but some hysterical comments made below by those who appear to be against her personally or her party. The message might be missed. As a grandparent it is unquestionable that in my lifetime the relationship between children and their parents has in general changed. That is not all for the bad but too many in their insecurity want to be friends with the child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Gven the current climate where the 'politics of fear' dominates. It is ironic that a politician is criticising parents attempts to keep their children safe and secure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    @50 -riff77 If this is the same Claire Perry who was a guest on question time last Thursday, then we may safely ignore her waffling. Worst panellist from any party for as long as I can remember; self important, rude, inaccurate and made intellectual mincemeat of by Neil Hamilton.

    The very same. A stunning combination of pomposity, ignorance and lack of self awareness. Frightening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Here's an idea: if you don't like the state "interfering" in how you bring up your children, then don't accept Child Benefit, schooling also paid by people who don't have children, etc. You can't have it both ways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Pretty much like the last two governments nannying the country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    ahhhh........ I wonder how many of current cabinet had a NANNY ?

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    yes, we all over do it. the childhood is being squeezed out of them by the need to achieve rather than the need to grow up and mature by trail and error. Why, because there are few good jobs and we want them to have a chance of them. The modern reality is that except for a privileged few this generation will be less well off. They need to be let of the leash, my generation was... its natural.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    British children 'babied' by intrusive parents, says MP

    An EXTREMELY disingenuous statement

    Successive highly Intrusive Governments, have from the 1980s, with their educationalists, sociologists and other pseudo-scientists and social-engineers have themselves created a pathetic society not fit for purpose

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Just back from supermarket where I saw somone's little bundle of fun trying to kick their father. If it'd been mine they'd have been straight over my knee and I'd be smaking their bare behind. Whilst dodging the kicks, the 'father' was threatening to send the child to its room when they got home. That kid doesn't have a chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    At 14 my lad was punched in the face by a neigbour for his ball rolling onto his grass, the police told us its not in the public interest to do anything cos the guy was registered disabled(needed a car more like).

    Nevermind son the police wont help you maybe next time hey?

    Theyre so fast at getting to the local shop though to move a couple of 12 year olds on then sit blocking the buses access..

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    So this woman is an 'advisor on the commercialisation & sexualisation of childhood', is she? That's laughable - don't the government & their marketing/PR/advertising pals want exactly that: a new generation of dutiful consumers? (Oh, I see, she's there to PROMOTE it - now I understand).

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    After ten years of teaching I have noticed the worst behaved kids come from two distinct groups of parents: the ones who consider their kids a burden and the ones who 'over parent' and do every little thing for them. Bu more importantly, 90% of parents (in my experience) actually do a decent enough job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    One day we might be told what we Brits are good at.........
    Binge Drinking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    but he does have a point how many teenagers would be able to look after themselves . Parents need to teach the kids what can be called basic life skills ie: how to make a meal, use washing machine, change a plug even change a wheel after a puncture. Not wet nurseing them as i believe thats why so many cant live alone as students as no knowlegde of how to look after themselves or others

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I come from a different culture. I am not even shocked anymore that someone at the age of 18 cannot cook "boil in the bag rice".By the age of 12 I knew how to cook, clean the house and look after myself.But, my cousin couldn't fry an egg when she was about 15.Parents are to blame for this situation.Adults who dont know simple vegetables like broccoli,because their parents fed them with junk food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Does this then mean the next crop of politicians will want their mummies sitting in the public gallery? Will that make any difference I ask myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    BAN SEX!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    #36 I think we are excellent at putting each other down to counter our own insecurities about our own performance or lack of it, Great place to live at the minute isn't it?


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