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 235.

    They don't seem to do anything on there own any more. Even at school they seem to all sit around a lagre table and talk all day. They should get on with there own work, have there own desk. No wonder we have Gang Culture. They can't even walk down the street on there own. Be yourself get on with your Own Life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    "UK adults are being "babied" by overly-intrusive governments, leaving them unable to cope as they grow up, an adviser to David Cameron has said".

    Spot on.........

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    It is all becoming something of a ant hill. Everything is organised and nothing is allowed that's original. People, young and old, are chastened for thinking for themselves. That this is happening under a Tory government says a lot about how far the rots gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    As one who works with 7 and 8 year old children on a daily basis, I've noticed that more and more students are experiencing difficulty thinking for themselves. Regardless of cultural differences on both sides of the pond, it's crucial to guide children in making positive choices so that they can think for themselves. Parenting is a difficult role in today's complex world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    I know several parents who still want a big involvement in their childrens lives even when young person is is their mid twenties. It is as though they want a slice of their life and won't go away?

    Result. I have two friends who have to defend themselves by telling their parents nothing and in case their mothers try to jump in for a share of it?

    They had to start doing this from about age 16

  • Comment number 230.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    She added: "Now, I just can't, so I don't, and I think they're probably better off as a result."

    So you "can't" do it any more..... So now you feel we shouldn't.

    We all want what's best for our children.

    Maybe as an MP you should we trying to grab some headlines with regard to knife and drug crime as apposed to having a pop at those parents who want heir children to enjoy sport or languages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    This feels like another politician judging parents from their own experiences. It would be great to have a debate which is around what children need rather than what is a good vs bad parent. Reports about parenting need to go back to first principles of what values and beliefs we want our children to grow up with. Being told you are not good enough as a parent is being mirrored in our children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Funny old game but we take a lot of care about who we allow to drive a motor vehicle and are quite prepared to remove that authority if they make a hash out of it.

    Yet anyone can decide to become a biological parent - without training or any assessment of their competence and certainly no test of their financial ability..

    When we consider that, it is remarkable that we have any 'good' parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.


    Can you expand on this rather bizarre theory ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Two five year olds are running along and both slip over in some mud...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?

    Hard to say. Avoiding the next puddle could have led to the kid getting run over as a result of being off the pavement. Meanwhile the kid who ran back to mummy has been cautious...

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    @211 James |Munro

    But she isn't confining herself to Constituency matters with this statement. Everyone has a right to comment on both the message and the messenger in this instance. Heaven forbid she ever gets a portfolio

  • Comment number 223.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

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

    Even more ironic that it is "wrongly" !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Utter rubbish from this arrogant, opinionated upper class Tory. What's wrong with our children is that they come behind their parents needs and ambitions. Children need loving & nurturing by selfless parents who take the time to teach them right from wrong, respect for others, the ability to play & share.Children learn then to stand up for themselves and cope in adulthood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    It would be good to debate the issue with Claire Perry but, based on her past performances, the 'discussion' would be dominated by her shouting down anybody who dared to voice an opinion

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    "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."
    You speak for yourself Mrs Perry, most parents are au-fait with the dangers of the internet, and bully for you staying at home to bring your children up, most Mothers have to go to work in the real world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    It is very difficult for a parent to allow their child some space to grow up and become their own person, when the other parent, to score a point, or for a quiet life, will just go out and buy them the next gadget.
    Many parents live in different homes following their own different agendas, one usually using the for their own ends.
    Opinion and advice is good, but from the real world please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    surprised a lot of the comments reject Perry's thoughts entirely, and stand with Justine Roberts on this one... though i would add that it does require someone mature to accept this point of view as having some merit, rather than throwing a temper tantrum lol....

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Keep it up Ms Perry. you and the other toffs in your party are proving beyond any doubt what a bunch of fools you all are.

    Better to keep your mouth shut and let us all think you are a fool than open it and prove it.

    No sorry keep on bleating, you are the best election campaign the labour party has.


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