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 215.

    Let them trip and fall and scrape their knees, it's how we learn to be aware.

    "Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes." - Oscar Wilde

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    As in all walks of life there are some extremes. On the one hand parents who don't give a damn about their children and, on the other, the mollycoddling, over-protective parents with good intentions but dubious motives. In the middle are the vast majority of 'normal' parents. Let's stop influencing public opinion and policy by the exceptions and build society on the majority; that's democracy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    It's true, often to make up for dumping them at nurseries, it's sad that both parents have to work these days.
    Boarding school however is the other end of he scale when it comes to neglecting children.
    Then the little mites ave to stay at home when the Uni loans run out because there are no jobs.
    Screwed up country...

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Mrs Perry should learn to speak only when she's spoken too, or she'll be on the naughty step.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.


    Happy to watch on I player but it is the issue that is worthy of our attention not the gender, politics, creed or attitude of Mrs Perry. That is a matter for her constituents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Why does Cameron require an "advisor" on parenting matters? "Mrs Perry advises the prime minister on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood."

    To me, she sounds like a one-person quango. Talk about a non-job! I thought we were supposed to be moving away from all these public-sector pretend jobs. I expect she gets a big salary top-up for her pointless advice, too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Sorry but if you believe this tripe there is no hope for you....what a non-story beeb!

  • Comment number 208.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    I blame the whole idea of letting parents select which school they go to rather than go to the nearest one.If they all went to the nearest school then after school clubs would be viable and the kids could walk to and from school rather than have the roads clogged up with doting parents driving them to and from school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    180. insert_name_here

    I think Claire Perry's parents' biggest mistake was teaching her to talk.
    I think their biggest mistake was a lot earlier than that.
    Harsh...........but fair.
    Had a proper chuckle at that :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    This panders to the ill-informed and opinionated who think Britain is no good compared to some mythical past. Most people make good parents and most children are delightful - the same as it ever was. Parenting in the UK is made difficult because the country is run by people who want to make money and have no interest in people's welfare. Mrs Perry's 'treadmill' was put in place by capitalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    Two five year olds are running along and both slip over in some mud, not hurting themselves. One runs back to its Mum, the other runs on avoiding the next muddy puddle.
    In adulthood, which one would you want to work with?

    Most comments seem to be parent or politician bashing. How about debating the content? That was the real object of Claire Perry's comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Yet another pop at parents by a govt who is seeking to take away family life entirely!Look at their previous statements on family life,mums are portrayed as lazy stay at home couch potatoes,the govt want mothers working,kids in nurseries from the day they are born,and now because that propaganda isnt working they are telling us we are bad parents!WAKE UP! its about MONEY and TAX, plain and simple!

  • Comment number 202.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    "A lot of it is women who, because it is difficult to get on, subjugate their own ambition into their kids,"
    Don't think I'd want to take any advice on bringing up my children from a woman whose English is so bad she doesn't even know the meaning of so simple a word as 'subjugate', lol. It means, of course, to defeat or overpower...

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    What better example do you need of a nanny state than when a government of ministers brought up my nannies lecturing parents on the best way to bring up children?


    This is an example of why they came 3rd in Eastleigh this is why they couldn't even get a majority victory over a lame duck Gordon Brown. This is NOT what government is for. This is NOT what the taxpayer should be paying for!

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Indeed, there does exist a group of parents characterised by their overly-intrusive management of children but not all parents are like it. With the ebb and flow of family life the sensible ones will try and claw back some time to enjoy their own adult lives as well as fulfilling a parenting role. No-one can be that intensive - or something's gotta give.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    "over-parenting" This from the ultimate nanny state .. God help us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    One can say that articles like this are part of the problem not the solution. Parents are bombarded with all kinds of "advice" often contradictive about how to parent. Parenting is the oldest profession on earth even the animals can do it, and it is very simple really, it is about taking a baby and making him/her an independent adult. Let them loose and give them a hand when they need it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Parents seem to want to be the childs friend rather than be actual parents to them.

    Being consistent and responsible is far harder and less fun but will ultimately be beneficial to the child and your relationship. They are trying to buy love and respect rather than earn it.

    It seems that they would be better off with toy dogs dressed up in stupid outfits and carried round in handbags etc


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