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 495.

    The reason why parents are "too busy or ignorant to realise what their children were doing online" is because they're too busy providing the basic necessities of life for their families due to the Capitalist system they were borne into.

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    460.darralluk07 said "Anyone else see Question Time ?"

    Yes. Not willing to let others have their say after she'd had her turn & kept interrupting. Awful woman!

    She has a point about the so-called 'helicopter' parents who plan their little ioks' every moment tho'. Kids need a chance to play & make their own games w/o overt supervision, at least some of the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    UK nation 'babied' by the advice of intriguing new government advisor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    This over-indulgence of children has been getting worse and worse. A large number of prents now act as unapid drivers/PA's for their children. Even a number of adverts over the years have featured this sadly.

    And for those such as 338. Riggadon, this is not due to an increase of offences against children since these have stayed roughly the same for decades. Not broken society, broken parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    "We worship this feminine motherhood thing and I don't think our children have benefited actually.


    Sounds like Mrs Perry is now regretting having given up her Credit Suisse job to look after the kids. So what's she advocating now? Masculine motherhood so women like her can maintain career focus without taking a break to look after the kids they choose to have?

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    I'm at uni and I remember telling my friends that my Mum used to whack me with a ruler if I was rude, they were all astonished. Similarly none of them had to run to school every day. I couldn't count how many times my Mum was so late to school that I started the walk back myself. Similarly on school trips they would all have to ring home every day so their parents could check on them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    Parenting is all about enabling children to become responsible adults. Its about teaching them to accept responsibility for themselves and to have the skills to do with their lives what they want.

    Freedom to make mistakes and fact the consequences is part of that.

    Its not about turning them into what we want them to be.

    They need to see that parents have lives as well that don't involve them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    "We worship this feminine motherhood thing and I don't think our children have benefited actually."

    - tell the judges that. It seems when a man kills his kids - he's bad. When a woman does it - she's mad.

    Time for a rethink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    Picture posed by models.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    I've worked with young people almost all my adult life and I agree that parents are not laying down strict enough rules. However, PC brigade has ensured that in nurseries and schools boundaries have become explicit to a persons' own desires rather than a socially acceptable norm. Population control is easy when people desperate to do right thing follow the how to guide to parenting over friends

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    Another example of those 'small state' Tories? You can't do this, you can't do that (all for our own good you understand). Funny how I am unable to afford a pint in a pub or have a smoke at the bar but MPs are at their place of work.

    End the status quo now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    "Mrs Perry said most parents were too busy or ignorant to realise what their children were doing online. "

    Probably sneaking a peek at BBC articles and silently remarking on the breathtaking arrogance of the people who are dictating their future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    I'm a teacher and horrified at the number of teens who have never caught a bus on their own, don't have a doorkey, aren't allowed to cook (my family who are like this with their children) BUT are then allowed unrestricted access to the net. How many parents realise that you can block them watching adult stuff on their laptop but not on their phones? Check the recommended Apps they can get! Scary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    Dolores Umbridge has spoken. All must listen.

    Britain definitely has the politicians it deserves

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    Who is this paragon of virtue,Mrs.Perry.Apart from being a mother,what research has been carried out,who has she consulted?We can all come up with these sort of generalisations but where does it get us?If this is the best she can do perhaps Mr Cameron can find her some other area to advise on-like how to cope with falling standards of living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    I have news for this Perry character: internet safety classes in schools already happen. I've taught it to my sixth formers, and the primary school where I'm Vice Chair of Governors teaches it too. And for good measure, I've delivered them at my church... but then I'm too busy being active serving my community to stand around blethering about things I don't understand, I stick to doing what I know

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    its a sensitive subject to us all as parents and we are`nt stupid. Todays generation of children are different to the generation before that and the one before that and so on, no parent likes to be told that there bad parents by someone who we know are not perfect themselves or any government who makes mistakes in the dealings with others so the question remains who`s advice do we adhere too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    As teachers we are assessed for the most petty things, yet students are rarely (if ever) taught about important things like parenthood. Many who can barely look after themselves have children within a year or two of leaving school. Some do well, some fail miserably as parents and on the cycle goes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    It's not exactly surprising these days when a rare incident that happens on one side of the country is seen as epidemic everywhere else. People generally don't exist within their community anymore, everyone's part of this media fueled existence and a result is a paranoia of going outside, especially when it comes to their kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Well maybe Mrs Perry and her government could start by passing laws to make sure all the schools that can stay open do so when we have 1inch of snow . I have always found it rather curious that these same children's health and safety which is paramount at school are later seen going down hills on old trays , black bin liners etc. Please tell me again who is wrapping kids in cotton wool Mrs Perry.


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