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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!

ohcluttergotme Sat 02-Mar-13 14:35:44

We can't afford to send dd(13) or ds(3) to hundreds of activities so dd quite often has to think for herself and come up with interesting ways to spend her time on a budget (bit like when I was her age). Ds has fun going to the park and things that don't cost heaps of money.

I snoop on dd's text message and facebook messages loads of times then bring up any topics that i think need addrssing, sometimes I think she is going to see how blatently I know what is goinng on in her life but so far nope.

zzzzz Sat 02-Mar-13 14:47:57

God I am so bored of "parenting" bashing. But no I don't recognise my children's lives in her little rant. How utterly depressing that she can find nothing original or even useful to say.

PixelAteMyFace Sat 02-Mar-13 14:49:20

I wish my parents had organised activities for me. It never even seemed to occur to them that I could benefit from actually doing something other than go to school.

I know that some parents go overboard with the number of activities their children do, but I would have thought they were such a minority that they were scarcely worth mentioning.

Far more harmful in my view is the emotional neglect that seems to be so prevalent.

I`m always shocked to hear that many families rarely eat together, with meals being taken on a tray in front of the tv. As children these days often have their own tv in their bedroom, when do families actually get together to talk about their day?

Children need their parents love and attention; no amount of expensive gadgets can compensate for indifferent parenting.

Bonsoir Sat 02-Mar-13 14:51:46

A very few of the parents I know do the sort of parenting criticised by Claire Perry. While I strongly agree with that sort of parenting being infantilising and dangerous, I do think it is a minority activity.

I disagree strongly with DC being allowed to be bored, however. Boredom is not constructive. DC need to be taught skills that they can practice on their own, without supervision, but leaving them to entertain themselves with no useful skills is incredibly harmful.

LineRunner Sat 02-Mar-13 15:11:36

Her full name is Claire Loud Perry according to wiki.

Somewhat apt if true, as she is the one David Dimbleby had to keep shutting up on Question Time on Thursday night.

Faxthatpam Sat 02-Mar-13 15:14:12

She's living in middle class oblivion. These are not issues that should be anywhere near her top priority.

1. Most parents can't afford this, so it's irrelevant. Of those that can, ime most are pretty sensible about it and just give their kids swimming lessons and maybe music/football/dance lessons if they are really keen. It's a tiny % who run around to Mandarin/Mini Latin/Ballet/Rugby/Harp/Lacrosse lessons every minute.

2. 'Snooping' is the wrong word. I think you are risking your relationship with your teen if you do this. You talk to them, explain the risks and tell them you will be making random checks to ensure their safety. This has worked so far for us and we (mostly) trust them. If we saw a red flag we would certainly look at their accounts more regularly and they know this, they know exactly where our line is. They also know we love them and would help them out of a bad situation if they made a mistake. However, teenagers need a private life, I said and did all sorts of stuff that my parents knew nothing about at their age. But I had learned where the boundaries were and knew not to cross them. That's what parents are for. Trust is important with teens, but does need to be earned. I certainly don't agree that most parents are living in "digital oblivion". Some live in chaos, which is where help is really needed, she needs to look at all the issues surrounding that chaos before lecturing us all in this way.

I think she is a silly woman, jumping on a parenting bandwagon.

edam Sat 02-Mar-13 15:33:16

I think it's a fair point that some parents have their kids doing organised activities every night after school and at the weekends too yet are remarkably lax about supervising what their kids get up to online.

Boredom - I think the idea is you should leave kids to amuse themselves sometimes, rather than constantly direct their activities. Children whose every hour is filled full of stuff they are told to do, that is organised by adults, are not being given the chance to develop and grow. They are not learning the skills they need to cope in adult life. Those children do exist and it's good to see criticism that applies to middle class parents - usually the media and political focus is always on bashing poor families. I know these children exist, I see them at ds's state primary, btw - one, two or even three organised activities a night, every night at least one. (Three e.g. if they are in brownies/cubs, learning an instrument and doing more than one sport.) Then the parents moan that they are always busy rushing from ballet to brownies to swimming... how do they think the kids feel?!

Fillyjonk75 Sat 02-Mar-13 15:47:07

Apart from gay marriage, this Government is getting everything wrong. So excuse me for paying little attention to any of her "advice".

I wonder how many organised activities politicians' pampered over-privileged dears in private/public schools do? I bet they have no time to take a breath between clarinet, horse-riding, mandarin, lacrosse, which nanny takes them to, of course. And then they get packed off to boarding school, where their lives are organised for them, then to Cambridge where their lives are organised for them, then to Inns of Court or straight to Westminster, where their lives are organised for them. So they live their lives with others looking after them and never having to fend for themselves.

And then it goes full circle and they lecture the proles on how to live their lives. Never having actually met one, you understand. But much more seriously, they also presume to know what's best for the country and how to run it.

Startail Sat 02-Mar-13 15:51:42

Given Ofsted have just put the DCs perfectly satisfactory school in to special measures for the most spurious of reasons the government can piss off.
(They are an academy, so they don't even have that excuse).

It is not going to make my DCs lives better if school roll falls and teacher recruitment becomes even harder.

It is not going to make them have more free time if teachers give out more HW.

PolkadotCircus Sat 02-Mar-13 16:07:04

Hmm what a load of tosh.

I get pissed off when wealthy Tories with kids probably going to private school (which have a lot of extras included and top notch teaching)and a life of connections ahead of them tell us with kids in shite schools what to do(yes I'm looking at you Boris and your dad too).

Should we all have pots of time and cash to try and help our kids get on(which nobody I know actually does) who are Ms Perry and Eaton boy to judge?

Chewbecca Sat 02-Mar-13 16:10:03

I don't think the comments are inaccurate as such but i don't think they should be top priorities.
Yes it is true that some parents organise too many activities. They are generally caring loving parents who want the best for their children. I personnally agree it is not ideal but I don't think these parents need reprimanding by the govt or that it is an issue the govt needs to take any action on whatsoever.
Re: the second point, I think this is also true and more concerning. I think there would be benefit to educate parens in this matter, just a website containing simply advice would suffice.
I do think there are much bigger childcare / parenting issues that are likely to cause much more damage to children (neglect, poverty etc) and that these are the issues govt should focus their efforts on, not parents who are trying too hard.

sarahseashell Sat 02-Mar-13 16:13:37

pointless parent blaming based on a very narrow viewpoint which will achieve nothing. misogynistic undertones as well IMO

waste of resources Tories should be concentrating on tackling child poverty which is a real issue they are responsible for.

PolkadotCircus Sat 02-Mar-13 16:14:36

Who are these parents?

We're on enough to lose our CB and have to rely on grandparents to pay for swimming lessons?

I don't know anybody with the money to pay for hoards of activities,even subs for cubs are a masseeeeeeve amount of £s.

Just shows how massively out of touch the Tories are with the real world.

PolkadotCircus Sat 02-Mar-13 16:15:37

And cupcakesconfused,what is she on about?

someoftheabove Sat 02-Mar-13 16:17:19

Is it just me wondering why the f**k Cameron needs an advisor on childhood?

blondieminx Sat 02-Mar-13 16:18:35

Is the ConDem coalition trying to wind parents up? I should be a core voter for them (degree, city job, married) but the onslaught of family unfriendly initiatives in recent months have really put me off!

angry cuts to children's services like sure start
angry failing to recruit the 3000 extra mw's we were promised at the election
angry the nursery ratio shambles which has boiled my piss, quite frankly. with its incredible stupidity.
...and now Pushy Perry wants to tell parents who want to provide their kids with interesting activities that we're doing it all wrong? hmm

Articles like those show just how totally out of touch our supposed representatives are.

If she really wants to help perhaps she should stick to trying to secure funding for children's services rather than denigrating parents so we get het up about that while they cut more classes at sure start/close another hospital/close another library?

Perry, if you're reading this, have a biscuit biscuit to stop the flow of utter nonsense from your mouth.

PolkadotCircus Sat 02-Mar-13 16:21:48

Well when you have people in the party who think families spend their CB on stocking the wine cellar and going on 'decent'(whatever that is) ski-ing holidays what do we expect.grin

theDudesmummy Sat 02-Mar-13 16:21:50

What a load of rubbish about children being "overparented". My childhood was completely filled with "planned activity" outside of school, arranged by my mother: Brownies, dancing, acting, debating, later on charitable work and teaching younger children. I never had a spare moment. My parents took me here there and everywhere and were always there to support when I was performing etc. It did me no harm, did the world of good and I went to University and did just fine thanks.

PolkadotCircus Sat 02-Mar-13 16:24:32

I think we all need to just sick our fingers in our ears and get through the last few years of this joke of a gov.Lets face it any other party will be better for families than the condems.

Merrylegs Sat 02-Mar-13 16:24:55

I switched off as soon as I read the words 'rod' and 'back'.

She's right about cupcakes though. I bloody love 'em.

AScorpionPitForMimes Sat 02-Mar-13 16:27:36

1) Not in my world - DH and I earn fairly well, but both work f/t so there is no time for an endless round of 'activities'. And much of the weekend is spent making sure the house doesn't end up a toxic dump. Most of the (perfectly normal middle class) parents round here are like this. Yes, my DDs used a before and after school club until last year, but now they walk to and from school independently, and they are certainly allowed to go and play outside. I do like baking and cooking, but IMO passing these things on to your DC is useful. Not just cupcakes, but roasts, curries, anything really. It's not an 'activity', it's an essential.

2) By the time you need to 'snoop' you're too late. You need to educate them before you let them out on the www. My older DD has a mobile phone - it is a phone. No camera, no gadgets, certainly no Internet. DD2 will not get a phone until she is in secondary. All Internet use in this house is supervised. Except mine, obviously. grin. No TVs in bedrooms in this house either - not the DDs, not ours either.

DontHaveAtv Sat 02-Mar-13 16:32:58

Yeah I feel sorry for the children who have endless activities after school. I mean that must be far worse than a child living in poverty or being abused.

Typical Tory twaddle.


fuckwittery Sat 02-Mar-13 16:46:26

The first point seems like a first world problem.
I'm not sure what research she's basing the second one, but yes, there are problems with allowed unsupervised online access which people need to be aware of. I'm not sure what this "we're all complicit" thing means. Does she mean that her government has not put in place adequate safeguards? I agree.

fuckwittery Sat 02-Mar-13 16:46:59

Referring to the opt in not opt out porn debate.

I was going to start a thread on this, having seen this on the front page of The times this morning ....
where the headline is "Parents have got it wrong, childhood guru warns"

Beneath the caption it continues, quoting Mrs Perry, Cameron's adviser on childhood ....

"We've created a treadmill. It's usually the mother that is orchestrating all of that and doing all the driving. We have created rods for our own back. Children need time to be bored."

Well, that just makes me think there was a time when a headline in The Times carried some weight, when it was based on some new research, had some rigour and substance. You would hope the same sort of things could be said for the publicised comments of the prime minister's adviser on childhood.

But these thoughts seem much less well thought through ....

Basically as posters have said up-thread do we really think that children would be better off without their parents active involvement in a wide variety of stimulating, educational activities, that often build on their existing and developing interests. Would my children really have been better off if I'd not taken them to ballet and Irish dancing, to taekwondo and karate (black belt at 10), to clarinet, trumpet, flute, and band practice, swimming with the family on Sunday afternoons, Quaker meetings on Sunday mornings. These more structured activities have still left plenty of opportunity for park, seaside, watching TV, playing computer games, building dens in the garden & yes, even being bored !

But if you're going to give advice to the prime minister and the country's parents Mrs Perry, and talk to The Times about your views, could you make sure that next time they're considered and founded on some rigorous research, and not just whatever ramblings you think will gain some publicity and perhaps a few votes from the lazy

If The Times is looking for a real childhood guru to advise the nation they could do worse than turn to Tina Bruce, early years educationalist whose philosophy can be summarised as follows ...

"Children need stimulating first-hand experiences which they can make their own through free-flow play"

So, yes, children need some time to play in childhood. But why not say so ?
Play should be at the heart of childhood, as well as exploration of a wide variety of stimulating activities, ... not boredom !

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