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
    +9

    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.

  • rate this
    +2

    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
    +18

    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
    +8

    Comment number 100.

    Lively kids are labelled ADHD and given ritaline,quiet kids are assessed for depression,noisy kids are labelled with behaviour problems, parents and teachers are being blamed for every wrong in society.The popular press hyping all the dangers of letting your child be independent with paedophiles around every corner, social services ready to take your child away if it has a bruise on its body.

  • rate this
    +77

    Comment number 62.

    After ten years of teaching I have noticed the worst behaved kids come from two distinct groups of parents: the ones who consider their kids a burden and the ones who 'over parent' and do every little thing for them. Bu more importantly, 90% of parents (in my experience) actually do a decent enough job.

 

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