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 95.

    didn't this guy leave his children in a pub?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    We are producing a nation of clone mothers rearing cloned children. No individuality, all following the latest craze, the newest 'in thing' with no sense of right or wrong and servants to peer pressure nonsense.Stems from the awful 'school run' that actually kills & injures more children than walking or biking to school does.
    Time to go back to walking to school for starters without 'Mummy'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    @79 I agree MPs are infuriating and for the most part sail very close to dishonesty. For example, the most generous public sector pensions are those of MPs. Which pension scheme has not been modified in this age of austerity? Correct. In fact they delayed doing anything about for another 18 months. Does that seem fair? Are we all in it together. Perhaps MPs pensions should be means tested!

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Well now I'm confused?
    I've been led to believe the country was crawling with booze-swilling, crack-addled kids stealing, vandalising & vomiting everywhere & that lack of parenting was the reason.
    Now I learn they're actually swaddled in bubble-wrap and surgically attached to the apron strings being waited on hand & foot.
    That noise that comes from politicians, which end is it emanating from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    I totally agree ... i have 2 kids (9 and 17) .. and i always say ' With freedom comes responsibility' ... how will they ever learn anything if they don't do it themselves... teach them well .. let go .. and let them learn from their own mistakes.. their lives .. not ours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    actually though as pointed out, most of the problems in society (anti-social behaviour) are from kids who parents who let their kids roam about with no interest in where they are or what they are doing - overall the damage to society caused by over protected kids is a lot less than by those who take little interest in them compared to being in the pub

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The opposite is also true, parents who couldn't care less about their child's welfare. Ultimately parenting is a very difficult task, but parents who keep their kids under lock and key at all times should be treated with the same level of scorn and scrutiny as those who don't take any responsibility. Kids need to get into fights and make mistakes in order to eventually become self-reliant adults.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I agree that some children are being wrapped in cotton wool and they need education at a young age that the world is not just going to make life easy for them. I think everyone on this blog will agree that life is far from easy.

    As well as this though does the state not baby a lot of the adult population now as well? too many people rely on the state to get by rather than fending for themselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Some insist that "positive" discrimination is a good thing if it means that 50% of MPs are women. Here we have a first class example of why we should not even think about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I am not really sure which group of parents the author is targeting? I am coming from poor immigrant background. While my parents were at work I had to take care of my siblings since I was 12 so I learned independence quite early on but still I managed to finish top UK university at the end. I know people from rich families who never got pocket money but had to earn themselves. Author show stats.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I wish that all parents had the chance to take a 7 YEAR CAREER BREAK. Isn't it lucky that the government is being advised by such a 'normal' woman about how 'normal' families function in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Any time now the expression "Helicopter Parenting" will emerge again! Children do need guidance to launch them down the right paths for survival on their own in the real cruel world, but the presence of the family when needed should also demonstrate how proper relationships and understanding can make life much happier and more successful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Maybe this is why our Mp's are so poor, no live experience.

    Though Mr 'towel folder' Osborne is doing well!

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Not only are kids babied but it seems nowadays a child is never told to be quiet for more than a few seconds at a time. Then when they've never learned to sit down and shut up they suddenly end up diagnosed with ADHD and from then on apparently nobody can ever expect them to sit down for more than a microsecond. Which harms everyone else, most of all those who truly do have ADHD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Parenting is all about common sense and getting the balance right between keeping your kids safe, giving them a mixture of life experiences (both good and bad) and encouraging them to be the sort of people their parents might desire them to be whilst still allowing them to form their own identities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    MPs are an infuriating lot. They lecture us on ethics, but the expenses scandal showed how conniving they can be. They lecture us on the scanctity of law and then, personally break it. They lecture us on sexual morals and then....perhaps best not to go there. Now, to cap it all, a backbench nonentity with the ego of a mountain wants to tell us how to be parents. Just stop the patronising twaddle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    "UK children are being "babied" by overly-intrusive parents"
    how dare they, it's the governments job to be overly-intrusive and controlling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    And the evidence for all this is? I thought so - diddly squat, nada, zilch. My daughter's just started 2nd yr at uni. She and all her friends have worked like Trojans to get there - they are fully prepared. They all use Facebook now, previously Bebo and MSN, and only talk to people they already know. In our day we used the phone - now they all conference call on Facebook. Only difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    For every child babied there is one practically ignored. If only there were a way to divide parental responsibility evenly between families.


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