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Parenting: Cameron's childhood adviser says we're all getting it wrong. Is she right?

(291 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 02-Mar-13 10:23:20


Claire Perry, MP, David Cameron's adviser on childhood, has been telling the papers today that Britain's parents have got it all wrong.

In The Times (£), the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Perry is quoted as saying...

* We fill every moment of our children's lives with organised activities, "damaging their lives" by leaving them unable to fend for themselves when they go to university.

* We should 'snoop' on our children's text messages and internet exchanges. Perry says that, as a society, we are all 'complicit' in allowing a culture where youngsters can make inappropriate contact with strangers at all hours of the day and night. She adds, "Most parents are too busy, don't know the words, aren't aware their children are doing it. They are living in digital oblivion."

Do you agree with either of her points?

Or not?

Please do post and tell!

working9while5 Sat 02-Mar-13 12:42:02

"I agree with her, as much as it pains me to agree with anything this shambles of a government say or do."

Me too, and I hate to!

I disagree it is parents getting it wrong, though. I think it is society dictating a certain sort of "goal-orientated" child-rearing, where what you do is always more important than just being.

In terms of the second point, again, I want to disagree, I really do... but the digital world contains so many dangers I wouldn't want my children exposed to in reality.. I wouldn't knowingly let my children hang out with fundamentalists, extremists, pornographers or any other such people in "real life" so I don't really want them to do it online. I don't think I would snoop though, I just would hope I would be able to limit their time on there.. but I doubt I will in all honesty, given that they are 3 and 8months and if things continue as they are going they will practically live online...

I hate even saying that, it makes me feel like an old fogey.. but I do see her point.

motherinferior Sat 02-Mar-13 12:52:30

She needs to decide whether her argument is (a) children are being overly coddled (b) children are being shamefully neglected. She needs to provide good evidence, across the full socioeconomic spectrum, for whichever point she is, in fact, trying to demonstrate. Then I might, perhaps, listen to her.

motherinferior Sat 02-Mar-13 12:55:45

Oh and for the record no, I haven't subjugated my ambitions into my children. Hence my professional insistence on good, evidence-based social analysis.

Corygal Sat 02-Mar-13 13:02:01

I am staggered by how overprotective some parents are - it worries me that the children won't be able to cope in adulthood, so maybe my paranoia is similar to Tory Bird's concern.

But neglect - the opposite - is a far, far worse problem, and that's proven to damage people pretty badly. Neglect and crap schooling are a lot more serious than the odd slightly hopeless middle class kid who underachieves. And as for young adults lacking boundaries, everyone knows how to avoid the entitled.

vesela Sat 02-Mar-13 13:03:56

I read it initially as "She herself had been guilty of hoovering over them."

swallowedAfly Sat 02-Mar-13 13:09:43

i am clearly not part of the 'we' she is talking about as ds doesn't go to loads of activities, walks everywhere, plays out with his pals and has already started being allowed to walk to the shop around the corner and buy something with a set amount of money twice. he'll be 6 next week.

i dare say she'd think i was doing it wrong too and endangering my child. you can't win with these know it alls wink

i do think a lot of parents are very naive about internet safety. i find it baffling that people give children mobile phones with internet access, cameras and no supervision and then are shocked and horrified when it turns out a photo of their daughter in her underwear is doing the rounds at school (and at church in one relatives case). also laptops in bedrooms stuns me and letting children have facebook accounts with no privacy settings and being totally oblivious to what they're doing.

that isn't as simple as 'shit parenting' imo though but genuine ignorance in many cases. my sister for example lived quite a sheltered adolescence and can be stunningly naive. her children weren't allowed to walk anywhere or go out alone or go over to the park and play but already had mobile phones and laptops with internet access and no supervision - i find that so bizarre! people's concepts of risk and safety are very skewed. overprotective in some areas and completely not supervising in others when to me the tables need turning - let them out to play if you live in a safe, quiet area and have several parents looking out for them and clear rules DON'T let themselves lock themselves in their rooms with a laptop through which the whole world can access them.

but seriously i don't need parenting advice from the government i need them to develop some frigging ethics and stop plunging more and more kids into poverty and deprivation for their own ends.

HeathRobinson Sat 02-Mar-13 13:11:21


TheFallenNinja Sat 02-Mar-13 13:15:14

Yawn. We're all getting it wrong, yada yada.

LadyInDisguise Sat 02-Mar-13 13:16:31

She needs to provide good evidence, across the full socioeconomic spectrum, for whichever point she is, in fact, trying to demonstrate. Then I might, perhaps, listen to her.

I couldn't agree more, especially in our times where everything HAS to be about providing evidence, standards etc...

So Mrs Perry, what's the evidence? Could you point us towards some studies (done with most care of course!) so we could decide if you do have a point or not?

Wonders about what sort of standards we should all aim for?
No more than 1 or 2 activities a week or is it no more than 2 or 3 activities in the day (I have seen that happening where I live, especially on a saturday)?

And then on often should we snoop on our children? Once a day, once a week or once a month? How much will be enough? How much should we show our children that we don't trust them in the few years just before Uni where... oh yes... they will be left to their own devices and should be able to be fully independant ....

BooCanary Sat 02-Mar-13 13:17:26

Point 1: I agree that children do more organised activity than they used to - mostly as a result of lack of not playing in the street, not disappearing for hours to goodness knows where, and not being told from a young age to 'come back when it gets dark'. But life has changed. However, my DCs have plenty of free time to do their own thing, and I don't think the few activities they do each week are anything less than beneficial.

Point 2: Although my DCs are primary aged, I was once a Uni student and I can tell you that the students who fell apart/filed exams/went crazy drinking doing drugs etc, were the very students who had been wrapped up in cotton wool, not encouraged to make their own decision, and generally incapable of acting like an adult. We need to teach our children to MAKE the right decisions, as opposed to making them for them.

DebbieLovesDallas Sat 02-Mar-13 13:20:23

Well on point 1, no I don't because I can't bloody well afford too! I can't even afford to take them swimming! My kids go to the park, play with their toys and watch a bit of TV (NOT SKY - before the Tory toff gets her knickers in a twist). On point 2, well mine aren't old enough to use the internet unsupervised yet, but when they are I will judge each situation as I see fit.

All I can see is a millionaire Tory MP who can't see past the end of her own nose and doesn't have a clue about the realities of bringing up children when you earn less than £100k a year. They could come up here to Liverpool and ask the advice of all the parents of the children at my dds' school, may give DC an insight into how the rest of the country lives. hmm

curryeater Sat 02-Mar-13 13:27:13

parenting, like everything else, does not happen in a vacuum but is informed by the current socio-economic climate. These dickheads should think about how their policies influence this climate.

They seem to want a childhood that takes place outside of and independent of economic activity, unsullied by paid care (which is what organised activities are) and gadgets (the desire for which is driven by consumer capitalism). Yet their policies work to leave less and less untouched by economic activity. Everyone has to work and consume all the time, even children. This is the logical conclusion of what they are doing.

All the people who run these activities are working with other people's kids instead of staying at home with their own - which is what the govt want, people working
Driving around is in itself an economic activity (the upkeep and fuel for the car, the work required to afford to own and run one)
Gadgets = economic activity

Free range, off-line children are outside of economic activity and being gently, subtly supervised by a network of off-the-economic-grid adults (once the world was full of SAHMs and kindly eyes - I would prefer it to be a network of gender neutral SAHPs). We are not allowed to have too many of such adults any more and the kindly eyes are gone - so this is why children are corralled indoors. And on their phones because they have to be doing something.

as individuals you can, if you work very hard, buck the system, sometimes. As a society we get the policies we are given and they will have the lifestyle results contained within them as logical conclusions

bigkidsdidit Sat 02-Mar-13 13:33:05

In a way I agree with her on point 1; I know a few parents like this and there are plenty on here. But that is hardly a big problem IMO - so some toddlers do a few too many activities. It is not going to cause enormous damage. She should be focussing on bigger problems as listed by pp.

Point 2 I agree.

grants1000 Sat 02-Mar-13 13:39:51

So my 10 yo does football matches and training and Sea Scounts. My 6 yo does Tennis and football training, just started attending science club at school after school, youngest learning to swim (eldest can swim) - each a hour or two a week. Is that too much or too little? I thought adults and children are too fat and inactive, hence the recent G'ovt campaign. So shall I quit the clubs and get fat and unfit or keep at the clubs that are damaging my children's lives? These are things they want to do, I don't force them to do any of them.

Tell me oh wise G'ovt what shall I do?

They are both online, eldest on X Box Live, we have set up all parental controls, monitor it and use an app which shows us all activity. Had 18 yo friends son round to give us the low down on X Box workings, safety and how it all works etc etc. Attended 2 police evenings at school all about online safety and was grateful for info and put some relevant things into practice. The have to use the laptop for homeowrk, research and mathletics. They laugh at funny things on You Tube and show me and we laugh together (safety controls on). Is this wrong too?

Tell me oh wise G'ovt what shall I do?

When the G'ovt wishes to make a point, why is it so damming and presumptive that we are idiots getting it wrong? EG: "damamging lives & living in digital oblivion" Why presume, the voters that may or may not be voting for them now and in the future are stupid in every aspect?

The G'ovt are clearly stupid, but so are my Local Education Authority, in my case anyway, I have a letter from each in the post today, who both clearly blame the other for a situation with my son's education. Each says the decision was made by the other and that they have nothing to do with it. Someone is obvioulsy telling BIG FIBS. When faced with this sort of buck passing and blame game is beggars belief.

grants1000 Sat 02-Mar-13 13:41:38

“We fetishise cupcakes,” she said. “I like baking but I don’t want to make that my life’s purpose. We worship this feminine motherhood thing and I don’t think our children have benefited actually. They’re babied a lot.”

I really don't know what on earth to say or how to respond.

nextphase Sat 02-Mar-13 13:51:59

Filling kids days with structured activities? What, like kicking them (age 3 and 22 mths) out into the garden, where they have decided to fill an empty plant pot with gravel, while I watch through the window?

And Yes, when they get big enough to go digital, I'll be guiding them at first, letting them explore, but also teaching them how to be safe - like I show them how to be safe in a carpark.

Don't generalise. We're not all tiger mothers.

twofingerstoGideon Sat 02-Mar-13 14:00:36

I think Claire Perry needs to get out more. In the absence of any data or sources for the drivel she's spouting, I can only assume that she's basing her views on her own experience or that of her immediate peer group - a group that may very well spend all its time ferrying its children by car from activity to activity when not baking cupcakes with them.

Meanwhile, in the real world, huge numbers of families are having to choose between, say, Brownies or swimming because they're unable to afford both, or are unable to provide their children with any activities whatsoever due to cost. The children I know who do lots of 'activities' do them with their childcare providers while their parents are out working long hours to provide the basic necessities for them.

LimeLeafLizard Sat 02-Mar-13 14:04:02

She needs to provide good evidence, across the full socioeconomic spectrum, for whichever point she is, in fact, trying to demonstrate. Then I might, perhaps, listen to her.

^^ This is worth repeating again.

If you read this thread, Claire Perry, please go away and do some proper research before spouting your personal opinions as if they were fact.

LimeLeafLizard Sat 02-Mar-13 14:06:23

Oh and I am an excellent parent because at this moment my children have no internet access because I am hogging the laptop and are free to play unsupervised because I am ignoring them whilst I MN.

exoticfruits Sat 02-Mar-13 14:10:08

I agree with her, up to a point, if you read the entire article. Children are over protected and not allowed out because parents perceive the local community to be dangerous and yet they are in far more danger on the internet in the privacy of their own bedroom.
They are babied to a degree that isn't healthy-you only have to read on here that 10 year olds have never made a cup of tea, never made toast and never cut vegetables with a sharp knife. The mother is still supervising them making cup cakes when they are way past that and can be cooking a meal.
If you suggest that a 4 yr old can do simple household task some mothers react as if you are sending children up the chimneys as in Victorian times!
Eight year olds are never left alone for 10 minutes at home-the comment that nearly always turns up is 'I might be in a car crash'! Why they want the DC in a car crash with them is beyond my understanding!
There are 8yr old boys who are still taken into the ladies changing room with mother, or even the ladies toilet.
There are children who can't entertain themselves-boredom is one of the best things for a child.
They don't think that 14 year olds can use public transport alone.
They never learn to risk assess and sort things out for themselves.
I find it frightening that DCs get to 18yrs-can head off for Thailand alone, if they have the money; and certainly life alone in a strange city and there has been no gradual build up.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Sat 02-Mar-13 14:15:24

I don't agree with her first point from a personal point of view. I have always encouraged my DD to be able to entertain herself, as she is an only, and I also manage very few activities because I am very busy shit at life

I think the second one I will do to an extent, as I don't want anything untoward to come up, however my parents didn't supervise my phone or internet use at all, so I won't be doing it obsessively.

funnyperson Sat 02-Mar-13 14:21:03

How odd. Who is Claire Perry? Apart from being an MP what authority does she have? Power, clearly, since she is in the papers, but authority?

Anyway: guilty of providing structured activities- almost certainly too much, but I am pleased to report that years later DC are not computer bound as a result of developjng a liking and habit for extracurricular activities. Not necessarily the same ones we spend loadsamoney and time on, but similar. The advantage is they arent depressed and have a good social life.

Not guilty of spying on texts. Guilty of being their facebook friends and sending private messages when their online friendship circle appears unsuitable or unsuitable language or unsuitable links are on their home page. Both, oddly, continue to be my facebook friends and seem pleased to have a mum that is looking out for them. I sent a particularly waspish message to someone who was very rude posting on DD home page and that person shut up. Both DC are in their 20's.

AlisonMoyet Sat 02-Mar-13 14:22:47

I agree with texting snooping.

Mate of mine discovered long term grooming by a family member in this way.
You might have to turn a blind eye to swearing etc but you can't be too careful.

AlisonMoyet Sat 02-Mar-13 14:23:29

Lol. You send messages to your ADULT KIDS FRIENDS on fb?!!

exoticfruits Sat 02-Mar-13 14:31:49

This is what she says in the article:

Children’s lives are being blighted by intrusive parenting that leaves them unable to cope on their own, according to David Cameron’s adviser on childhood.
Every moment of a child’s life is filled with organised activities, leaving young people unable to fend for themselves when they go to university, according to Claire Perry. Yet at the same time, they are allowed free range of the internet, where real dangers lie. “We’ve created a treadmill. It’s usually the mother that is orchestrating all of that and doing all the driving,” Mrs Perry said. “We have created rods for our own back. Children need time to be bored.”

Many parents admit that they do not know how to balance protecting their children and preparing them for adult life where alcohol is cheap, drugs widely available and sexualised images are easy to find on the internet

Mrs Perry said that, despite the intense focus on children’s lives, parents were often afraid to lay down the law. “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 is going to tell them?”

There is too much to copy and paste-these are the bits that I agree with in general.

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