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 175.

    well I would confirm this where 30 years ago you had to start work at 16 but that cannot happen today as youngsters are not in my view mature enough until they are 19-20 . Plus we are in the realm of 1-2 child families where 30 years ago it was 3-4 so parents invest and protect their children more

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Absolutely spot on this comment, individuality down the pan, all kids are mammied too much, and cannot do anything for themselves. Even right into adulthood, and do not know right from wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    My experience has shown that kids today can't wait to leave the nest. To be seen in the company of either parent is to be avoided at all cost. I have often heard kids scream abuse at a parent who wants to hold their hand or keep them close. It's a no win situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    It's a pity they don't continue until the kids become and start acting like law abiding adults,

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Hasn't this member of parliament,whose salary we pay,got anything better to do with her time?

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    So what happened to the promise made in 2011 by this coaltion for free parenting classes? They never took off, no reports or cost effectiveness on the trials held (if they ever were held) but instead the majority of Sure start children centres closed where parents had access to support and advice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I agree that parents are under enormous pressure to mould their children usually to a standard prescribed by schools and government. It is rare to hear a parent praised these days. Rather than criticism, positive feedback, building self-esteem and confidence in parents and children would be much more useful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Who is Claire Perry to criticise how parents bring up their children? She has no relevant qualifications or work experience! Many parents poorer than MPs have to work all hours to pay bills and need to send children to activities after school etc. The education system has to spoon feed children to pass exams for schools to meet targets. No wonder children cannot think or do things for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    The parents that make me laugh are the ones that consider it too dangerous for their child to walk 1/2 mile to school but think its fine for them to have an ipad, smart phone or laptop connected to the internet to use on their own with no idea of what they are genuinely doing! - pure ignorance! They seem to think the 1/2 mile walk is unsafe but if tucked away in their bedroom all is well !

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I was hit by dipression as a young mum, exhausted, fighting to sleep at night & to stay awake by day. Home with the kids while Dad earned our keep. Kids dressed themselves at 3, no matter if something was inside out. Left to to amuse themselves in safe surroundings. By a miracle, they grew up independent & nice to know. A good Dad helps hugely.

    Their one luxury was learning sailing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Firstly being a parent in todays society is terifying enough, it is not safe to let your children play out any more, so to socielise your child you arrange safe activities. There are two groups of children today those with parents who care, and those with parents who dont care and the families have generation growth on benefits. Todays work life balance is the worst its been in nearly 100 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Why would anybody listen to this sanctimonious, odious, self-important, privileged ex-banker? Her sole purpose in life is to listen to the sound of her own voice. She should be treated with the same contempt she shows others.

    The ONLY reason she is an MP is because she stood in a constituency where any level of idiot would get elected so long as they wear a blue rosette.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Most of the Tories I've had dealings with in my life have been the most obnoxious, arrogant, selfish, uncaring people.
    I can only imagine the households they were dragged up in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    I just had to add my thoughts on this article! I think the world has gone potty there is just not enough good old fashioned discipline anymore! We have now adopted the way the USA deal with things HOW a child can sue their parents for smacking them is beyond me. When I was a child my parents taught me right and wrong and yes I did get smacked but it taught me how to respect others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Amazing. First they take all our rights away about how to discipline our children and how old they have to be before they are allowed to be independent - and then they tell us how useless we are as parents, and that everything they told us to do is wrong! Can't win.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Claire Perry..That same vulgar woman on Question Time who continuously spoke over everybody else on the panel ?
    Judging by her imperious and domineering presence on Thursday's QT, I doubt very much that any of her 3 kids will be able to get a word in edge ways on just about any significant juncture in their life.
    She's the archetypal Tory "Brown Owl" throw back from the 1960's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    So send them to boarding school that'll given them a bit of backbone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Please, Please, Please!!!
    We voted Conservative to get away from the New Labour Nanny State.

    We are perfectly capable of looking after our kids thank you - and really don't want to mention anything about leaving them behind in the pub! Whoops - Sorry Dave!

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    The government seem to be forgetting that they are the ones "babying" society in the first place. Get rid of all the ridiculous health & safety laws like not being able to play conkers in the playground. How is any child supposed to learn dangers if they're not allowed to have any risk in their life?

    You can't go through life without risk and expect to gain experience!

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Did this really come from the same government that seems to consider it "child abandonment" to leave a 12 year old home alone for 10 minutes? We've created a culture of endless fear, where being over 18 means someone is practically assumed to be a paedophile, and taught children that it's all about them. Then we wonder why so many can't function as useful members of society.


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