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 355.

    322. Veronia
    and that makes you do your children's homework for them?

    anyway look to Ken Clark for letting rapists etc back on the street.

    so one assumes you would also insist that they didn't attend uni as they would be out of your sight?

    the next generation is so spoon fed its beyond the pale, all they are prepared for in life is a job in management consulting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    What this woman says is true, inherently sensible and because of that...totally unpopular. A lot of the righteously indignant need to take a look in the mirror.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    Mrs Perry is ignorant of her own spin im afraid.Kids need to be let free to learn for themselves.It is after all how people learn.I also found her performance on QT utterly charmless,bossy and arrogant.The kind of person that loves the sound of theyre own voice,she was just plain rude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    HA! As parents we are constantly babied by the authorities with bogus "health and safety" excuses - have you seen how boring playgrounds have become? Our school took away a climbing frame due to health and safety. My twelve year old couldn't buy a hot glue gun due to health and safety. And she can't play in front of the house because of all the adults driving and unwilling to slow down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    the hideous truth is that they are grossly outnumbered by parents who show too little interest in their offspring.
    exactly - far more of the latter, watching TV or out giving it large/getting slaughtered down the pub whilst their kids are doing who knows what. My wife is Chinese and in their culture you do everything for your children and your own interest are secondary

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    328 Rebecca riot
    And the converse is also true. . I am just amazed at the lazy type casting thats going on here. All Tories burn five pounds notes all socialists are salt of the Earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Mrs Perry is "the PM's adviser on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood" -- so maybe she should stick to investigating that. Oh no, hang on, she can't do that because then she might have to contemplate reining in the excesses of rampant capitalism. Let's pick an easy target instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    It is odd, isn't it, that when mothers mostly stayed at home and looked after them, children were not described as "over-parented". Yet now the pressure, both socially and financially, is on for mothers to work, the obligation is there to give "quality time" to children and offer them every opportunity to take part in multitudinous activities. Mothering v. guilt is the real issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    Saw Ms. Perry on questiontime last week, not very impressed with her thought processes, more driven by dogma, sniggering and grandstanding. Now she wants to tell people how to parent their children, thought her party were against telling people what to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Destroyed NHS: Destroyed Teachers authority: What shall we destroy next - I know Dave let's have a go at parenting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    So Ms Perry took a seven year break from management consulting. Says it all really.

    Yet again there is an assumption that this woman knows what she is talking about when she clearly doesn't.

    It is just the same with all those idiot bankers and accountants who work in the City.

    Utterly incompetent....

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    Parents bring up their kids in all sorts of different ways. It's rediculous to make sweeping statements like this. You could easily make the opposite argument, that parents don't spend enough time with their children. This leads to them never developing a proper sense of empathy for others and is why there so many uncaring teenage thugs roaming the streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    How one raises there kids is there own choice and why should people judge them by that its none of there buisenes to judge mothers and fathers how they love there kids everyone is diffrent and kids will grow how they want to be I mean school and work meet new people and can be totally diffreet people that way ridiculous on this news article whatever next I mean at least we care

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Claire Perry saying that parents 'baby' or coddle their children too much. This is the same Claire Perry who wants to censor the Internet to 'protect the children'. This is another politician who has no idea what her own views on any issue are. She seems to make up rubbish as she goes along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    "Mrs Perry said most parents were too busy or ignorant to realise what their children were doing online."
    I agree, think you know your tween/teen? Your little angel? Go through their computer browser history and see just WHERE they go.
    I think you will be surprised How? go here-

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    The Conservatives are the last people on earth to lecture on how to raise children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    There's a lot of truth in this. Somehow or other UK parents seem to become paranoid about their children. Naturally they have some reason to worry more these days than parents in the past had to, but UK parents now seem unable to find the right balance. It results in little princes and princesses who demand their own way and howl like a banshee if they don't get it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    How many stories do you read in the media of kids being groomed for sex? And other such horrors?

    The media in this country have so many people depressed/whipped up in a frenzy over this BROKEN society, its no wonder parents are over protective. Instead of saying parents are babying their children, you might want to investigate the reasons why first and fix the cause. #Brokensociety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Yesterday it was what I drink, the day before that it was what I eat, today it's how I raise my kids... Tomorrow... Guidelines for wiping my backside!

    Everyone has a view on what is good for them, how to raise their kids or how to be a good person! Being an elected MP does not give them the right to airtime in order spew out nonsense and critique the populous simply based on their own opinion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    The real problem here is someone babied Claire Perry.


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