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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  • Comment number 195.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    We are certainly over protective in this country. When I was at school we had one class mate with eczema and asthma. I do not remember any allergies. Remember - allergies are acquired, we are not born with them. As a friend of mine says "they don't eat enough dirt". I totally agree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Children are babied now becos we have so few, one very most two. My grandparents had 12 children, do you think they had the time to baby every single one of them? It was survival of the fittest. With 1 child, parents can focus all their attention on their only offspring. Parents are now super-competitive which explains all the activities. My child has to keep up with the jones' children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    OH !...So when David Cameron left his daughter in a pub toilet and drove home...That was in fact an excercise in self aspiration and survival.
    Makes perfect sense now Claire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    A child asked his father: "what is a man?" The father replied, "a person who takes responsibility for his family in the house and takes care of them." The child said, "I hope I will be a man like mum one day."

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    I left school early and got to Uni the hard way. Definitely made me more independent and self-reliant.

    However, my parents were vital in this and in my experience it's actually the posh school kids who are of average ability but have been mercilessly tutored into a zombie-like state of exam-readiness who become most frustrated with the more independent and creative thought needed in Uni/life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Just realised who this woman Perry is. She was on Questiontime lasr Thursday. I have to say that she is the most rude, arrogant and intimidating person I have EVER seen on this programme -- and there have been many!
    If I was sitting next to her (as the honest and genuine Angela Eagle was) I would have either hit her or moved to the other side of Dimbleby.
    Horrible woman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    politeBoobie says, "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."

    That'll be the same other peoples children whose taxes keep you in your dotage then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Right from wrong? that's just an excuse, not to be responsible for your own actions or stand on your own two feet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Perhaps we wouldnt need to be so directly involved in ensuring the wellbeing of our children if there was someone with a brain advising David Cameron on this topic.

    Is this not just a distraction technique from the results of the Eastleigh byelection and the likely challenge to david camerons leadership - pencilled in for the post local elections in may?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    The British are probably the worst parents in Europe. I lived on the continent for a number of years. Children there are disciplined and well behaved but not smothered by over protective, out of work teenage parents treating their kids like china dolls.
    Over the last 40 years we've bred a nation of infantile wannabees who can't take care of themselves let alone a child

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Spot on that includes mums and dads carrying those silly scooters back and forth first after they drop little Timmy off and then carrying it back with them when they go to pick him up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    32. Annoyed
    "...Also, sorry to break it to you, your kid is most probably not Eintein, and does not have special needs"

    I completely agree with what you're saying..... Just ironic that it's 'Einstein'! One does hope it was spelt wrong ironically...

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Maybe the government should stop 'parenting' everyone in this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Claire Perry - thank goodness she isn't my mum and that she isn't my children's mum - they have the best mum in the world and that's because she is a million miles from what she is. How anyone can listen to what a plummy speaking Tory has to say on life in general let alone parenting is beyond me. By he and the old fashion ways of parenting Angela Eagle should have slapped her several times on QT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I think Claire Perry's parents' biggest mistake was teaching her to talk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Probably the main reason us parents fill our childrens lives with so many organised activities, is that it is no longer safe in this country to just let them go out to play or be out of our sight for a second. I would much rather take my daughter to a safe enviroment, controlled and somewhere i can watch from the side line.
    If that makes me a bad parent, so be it. Too many predators around

  • Comment number 178.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    We would have loved " "enormous pressure" from schools and society to mould their children and oversee their achievements.". What we got was a school that pretty much excluded parents from when our child was 13 or so. It's far easier to herd them if you don't have inconvenient parents asking difficult questions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Well you see that's why the world has gone wrong, previous generations didn't have this adviser on 'commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood'.

    What bargain price are we paying for this indispensable font of wisdom?


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