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 475.

    The arrogant rude aggressive MP who constantly interupted the one other female panelist on Question Time, to such an extent David eventually told her to shut up and let him chair. Clearly a product of her own childhood.

    Who votes for these vile people? All they do is continuously spew poison and bile contaminating our society and dividing us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Mrs Perry (allegedly) was educated at Nailsea School and Brasenose College, Oxford, where she read Geography,
    Perry worked in banking and finance for Bank of America, McKinsey & Company and Credit Suisse.
    Perry is married with three children. The family live near Salisbury in Wiltshire.

    Maybe the leeching rich can afford this lifestyle.
    Got a bit of a neck to talk about being pampered I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    Sorry Ms Perry but this is rubbish. I'm sure some of your friends may do this, but this is clearly not the case in the real world.

  • Comment number 472.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Don't confuse being on benefits with adjusted,well behaved children.I have seen most obnoxious ones who are very far from receiving benefits-I am all for helping third world poverty but these types do not need to go to a foreign country to " help " with the poor to write on their CV. Go and work in a homeless shelter in the UK. That'll make make them more adjusted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    DC should listen to Mumsnet's Justine Robers and free up Claire Perry to do something productive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    I'm sure most parents are doing the best they can. The worrying 'babying' trend I'm seeing is university students who stamp their feet at low marks and complain to parents who immediately call the Head or VC (!) without investigating why their precious 'baby' is in that mess. You'd think by 18 people allowed to drink, drive, choose their course in life would be able to handle adversity themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    I remember my friends always saying "wow, your mum and dad are really strict with you" whenever they came over my house to play or have didn't do my any harm now I've grown up.
    I think parents sometimes try to shrug off 'Victorian' upbringings like the one I had...despite the fact I treat my parents and authority in general with the utmost respect and love my family dearly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.


    Yes, I did.
    Who was that grumpy, bitter, rude woman in the green anorak?

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    Yes it is odd that my generation seem to parent very differently to their parents - my siblings do this total hands-on over protective line but my DH and I moved to a farm and let ours go to the local comp and even home educated for 4 yrs and they are totally competent young adults now - in fact the aged Ps are going to move out and leave the farm to them - and only one wants to go to uni!

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    There are as many different parenting styles as there are parents. New styles may have emerged in recent years (some probably more characteristic of certain classes than others) but no doubt other undesirable styles have faded out (the stiff formality of Victorian parents no doubt produced its fair share of neuroses).

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Yes send the kid down the foodbank that should toughen them up. Meanwhile thier own kids are on a 16,000 six month Gap Year to help feed the elephants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    So many posts blame, Cameron, Thatcher, Ms Perry, poverty, blah ,blah blah. The responsibility of bringing up a child lies solely with the parents/carers. It is their job to provide for and nurture their child to adulthood and independence; capable of being a functioning adult in society.

  • Comment number 462.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    A lot is made of preserving chilldhood innocence but as a somewhat spoilt child, I can honestly says its counter productive. Once you experience the real world and see not only, that you're only permitted to exist as long as you fulfil your role as a worker ant and consumer but the kicker - the joy people take from your destruction you wonder why any1 would want to bring a child into this cesspit

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    Claire Perry is a typical Tory very loud, very rude and in her opinion always right. Anyone else see Question Time ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Ouch! I'd say a lot of comments are coming from parents who are taxis and diary keepers for their busy little bees! The woman might not be a "qualified" one, whatever that means but unfortunately she is bang on with a lot of what she says. I am a dad and I don't recall having a packed agenda all weekend and in the week nights like many kids do. We do need better balance than I see now.

  • Comment number 458.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    Perry is in favour of a filtering system for internet, which will apply to all users unless they opt out of it. She considers that children should thereby be prevented from obtaining access to information and images which they should not see

    Nanny Perry and her Nanny State controlling everything and blaming everything on parents

    We get what we deserve

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    There's probably some truth in this wild card statement. I can only speak as a parent of 3 boys. We encouraged them in all they wanted to do, I introduced all 3 to mountaineering & instilled self-reliance in them to encourage enjoyment of the outdoors whilst being conscious of the many dangers. This has been transferred to all aspects of their lives & made them well rounded men as a result.


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