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 115.

    Better to over-parent than to neglect your responsibilities and duty of care in the way this government has failed the citizens who employ it... but at least our children are not paying through the nose for this lack of service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    No faecal matter fictional Victorian super sleuth! The media led worship of the child and beatification of parents is a disease that has gripped the nation by stealth over many years and resulted in a selfishly, disjointed and arrogantly inefficient nation of milksops incapable of truly independent thought and so easy meat for political and corporate manipulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Much of this comes from rich middle class parents who obsess about their kids getting into Oxbridge, baby them, shower them with money and public school and they end up as ignorant drunks at university. Not like the poor state school kids who think and do for themselves. Also mothers out at work means kids are molly coddled and showered with money but not time to learn the things needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    I am fed up with 'doting' parents who never use the word 'no' to their kids. This generation of kids are unfit for life through - too much 'screen time' not enough physical exercise, dumbed down school work and an ability to always succeed no matter how badly they fail. As for 'men' increasing feminisation is turning them into women & if the Germans tried it on today we would be finished

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    @74. James Munro - I don't know Mrs Perry but some hysterical comments made below by those who appear to be against her personally or her party.


    No seriously, I-player last weeks question time. She was an advert on how to alienate the audience by not knowing how to behave during the debate.

    The words 'rude, obnoxious & ignorant' only go so far towards summing her performance up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    The two worst ends of the spectrum are the overly strict parents who shout and scream at their kids all the time. Even when behaving ok.

    At the other extra you have namby pamby fruitcakes who wouldn't say boo to their child if they were setting fire to the place.

    Both are harmful.

    Love, give and take, respect, common sense and gentle control when necessary are what is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    As if any more proof were needed that the UK is a Nanny state gone wild - actually it is more sinister than that but let's keep this mainstream.
    A recent article berating parents for how they fed their children and now one on how they are actually raised - why anybody would think there was an agenda here of the government wanting to control every aspect of our lives and society.
    Oh Brother! (big)

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    So here we go again throwing around stereotypes of what British people are like, this time based on the opinion of an eccentric MP and not a mention of the the kids point of view
    Kids survive, they survive bad, good and excessive parenting.
    So why not get some kids to advise number 10 for a change
    However I take comfort in the fact that this sort of news quickly fades away into oblivion

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    My boy (girl) is a good boy (girl) says Mum as boy (girl) is carted off for speeding, doping, etc. etc. My B (G) really does have 500 facebook friends all of which is known personally to him (her). Whoever said kids are babied is clearly not living in the same world as Mum (or Dad). Neither am I.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Both feral and mollycoddled children are a pain in the...

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    What does she base her comments on? Just a version of her own world? Every child is very much different as is every adult. The worst sort of parent is one who tells everyone else how to do the job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Quote from Times article: [Perry] said: “We’ve all done it [over-protecting children] , now I just can’t, so I don’t, and I think they’re probably better off as a result.”
    Read as: "I used to over-protect my children but that was OK 'cos everyone else did too; Now I'm too busy for that but I "think" they're "probably" better off - so that's OK too. Everything I do is the right thing!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Just this morning, I had to stop in the street because a little girl stopped dead in front of me. Instead of apologising and moving her out of the way, her middle class father said "So you don't want to walk, and you don't want buggy, and you don't want scooter – what *do* you want then darling?" And this is what is wrong with middle class parenting: stop asking, start telling! It's your JOB!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    We do spoil our children, because we are the "haves" and not the have-nots".
    "Poor" children in this Country have a 1000 x more than those in less well off and third world countries.
    It will not last forever, and only the tough survive in the long term!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Just like the way the Government 'babies' us!!

    Are we not capable of making our own lifestyle choices and decisions without being patronised and told we can only do what is good for us, or makes us live longer (despite the pension pot and NHS being unable to cope)!

    Stop intruding in the lives of the general public and start running the country!

    Oh that may mean having to make decisions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Lively kids are labelled ADHD and given ritaline,quiet kids are assessed for depression,noisy kids are labelled with behaviour problems, parents and teachers are being blamed for every wrong in society.The popular press hyping all the dangers of letting your child be independent with paedophiles around every corner, social services ready to take your child away if it has a bruise on its body.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    @74. James Munro - 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.

    It is honestly nothing to do with her politics James. I'd suggest you go to iplayer and see a few minutes of Thursday's Question Time to witness her manner and approach for yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    MPs cannot be trusted to run the country, they, routinely lie to their constituents, the Courts and Parliament, they, fill out false expenses claim forms, do not keep their election pledges, indulge in nepotism, cronyism and crime. They are gutless self serving creeps.
    They have for a long time failed to educate our children. Why should we let them tell parents how to bring up their offspring?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    From my observations in the US/UK, among the middle/upper middle class everything kid-concerned seems to revolve around competition, the area of education. The nicest people will become raging tigers if they think their kid is falling behind, hence the extraordinary lengths/expenditure some go to give their child that vital advantage -as one once told me 'It's too important not to .'

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Read No Fear by Tim Gill for a good example of what is wrong with our risk aversive society.

    When I was younger playgrounds were full of concrete, breaking an arm or leg was common place. Kids now don't develop the thought mechanisms for dealing with risk. So as soon as they're allowed out of the house alone they go crazy.


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