David Cameron’s patronising classes in parenting as Nanny state should keep out – Daily Mail
My ardent admiration for David Cameron is second to none. I believe he is the best British Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher.
He saved us from Ed Miliband and, for that alone, he deserves our undying gratitude.
But as a father of four, I part company with him when it comes to parenting classes.
Cameron rightly values the institution of the family as the bedrock of society. By providing people with love and security, as well as a source of identity and meaning, the family serves as a bulwark against totalitarianism.
It is no coincidence that Socialist dictators and their handmaidens on the progressive Left have done whatever they can to undermine the traditional family.
As long as the family unit remains intact, the mighty state will always be held in check.
Bringing up children may well be an ‘important job’, but that doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate area for state intervention. David Cameron meets parents and their children at a class before he outlined his vision for tackling poverty and improving the life chance’s of society’s less fortunate
This is why it’s fundamentally misguided of the Prime Minister to try to extend the writ of the state to the manner in which we raise our children.
‘Of course, [kids] don’t come with a manual, but is it right that all of us get so little guidance?’ he said yesterday, as he urged families to attend child-rearing classes.
‘We’ve made progress. We’ve dramatically expanded the number of health visitors, and that is crucial. But that just deals with one part of parenting — the first few weeks and months. What about later on, when it comes to play, communication, behaviour and discipline? We all need more help with this — the most important job we’ll ever have.’
Bringing up children may well be an ‘important job’, but that doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate area for state intervention.
Few Englishmen or women would be able to regard their home as a castle if they had to put up with official advice about how to run their household.
The notion that a particular style of parenting should be endorsed by the state, with anyone departing from this orthodoxy branded ‘irresponsible’, should be anathema to anyone who values the privacy of their own home.
It is bad enough being told to stop eating red meat, limit ourselves to 14 units of alcohol a week and cut out sugar.
Do we really also need the nanny state to tell us when our children should go to bed and how much pocket money they should get?
If parents can’t be bothered to get up in the morning to make sure their children are well-fed and properly dressed before they go to school, they’re unlikely to take the bus across town to a parenting seminar
Cameron is too mealy-mouthed to say it, but this policy isn’t aimed at the majority of parents, but at ‘problem’ families, where children subsist on a diet of junk food, stay up all hours of the night playing video games, never do their homework, play truant from school and generally engage in all kinds of anti-social behaviour.
This is what policy-makers call ‘the cycle of deprivation’, with parents passing on their indolence and dissipation to their children, and it’s one reason why we have an entrenched, welfare-dependent underclass. Teaching parenting skills is supposed to be a solution to this problem.
But what makes him think the mums and dads in these households (or just the mums, because the dads have usually b****red off) will take up the offer of parenting classes?
If they can’t be bothered to get up in the morning to make sure their children are well-fed and properly dressed before they go to school, they’re unlikely to take the bus across town to a parenting seminar.
The middle-class parents likely to sign up are the ones who typically need the least guidance.
One reason I can say this with some confidence is because I endured a parenting course at the insistence of my wife, who was convinced I wasn’t taking my duties as a father seriously.
The course was run by an American woman out of her £20 million house in Notting Hill and it didn’t exactly attract a diverse cross-section of West London residents. My wife and I were the only couple who didn’t send their children to private school.
One thing I learned during this ten-week endurance course, which entailed reading around two dozen how-to guides, is that the entire parenting industry has been hijacked by the liberal Left.
It was all about ‘validating their feelings’ and including your children in the ‘circle of love’, whatever that is.
If they did something unspeakable, such as swear at a teacher, you weren’t supposed to punish them, but ask them to ‘share’ their anger.
One thing I learned during this ten-week endurance course, which entailed reading around two dozen how-to guides, is that the entire parenting industry has been hijacked by the liberal Left
We were taught that there is no such thing as naughty children — only ‘misguided little people’ who engage in ‘inappropriate behaviour’.
You may think I’m being unduly cynical about the effectiveness of parenting classes, but don’t take my word for it.
Exactly the same policy that the Prime Minister is proposing was rolled out in Scotland in 2009 — and it has been a complete disaster.
The NHS in Scotland offered the ‘Triple P’ Positive Parenting Programme to disadvantaged Glaswegian couples. ‘It’s about engagement, encouragement and empowerment,’ read the glossy brochure.
In 2014, it was recommended that the programme, which had cost the taxpayer £4 million, be shut down. University researchers found it had almost no impact on families from deprived backgrounds.
Fewer than half the targeted families finished the course and those with the most severe problems proved the most likely to drop out.
‘The NHS should not be spending money on stuff that simply doesn’t work,’ said Phil Wilson, of the University of Aberdeen. ‘This whole episode with Triple P has been a massive waste of money.’
I have no argument with David Cameron’s desire to strengthen the nuclear family. As I say, anyone who values freedom and prosperity should welcome that. But state-sanctioned parenting courses are not the answer
Similarly, CanParent, a pilot scheme set up in London in the wake of the 2011 riots, was a £5 million flop. It ended up costing £1,088 per adult after fewer than 3,000 parents turned up to the classes.
Even if the Government made attending parenting courses mandatory for those whose children are most at risk, there’s no reason to suppose it would have a beneficial impact.
Indeed, if you discount extreme cases, such as severe neglect or child abuse, there’s not much evidence linking bad parenting to problems such as teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, criminality and drug use.
Behavioural geneticists and social psychologists have studied tens of thousands of identical twins separated at birth, as well as non-biological siblings raised in the same household, and the inescapable conclusion is that family upbringing has little impact on what sort of adults children become.
‘Non-biologically related adopted children raised together are utterly dissimilar to each other — despite, in many cases, having decades of exposure to the same parents and home environments,’ says Brian Boutwell, a criminology professor at Saint Louis University in the U.S.
While it’s true that the biological children of adults with social problems are likely to suffer from the same issues when they grow up, that’s because those problems have a genetic basis, not because their parents lack the skills to bring them up properly.
Parents pass on their sins to their children all right — but via their DNA, not bad home environments.
I have no argument with David Cameron’s desire to strengthen the nuclear family.
As I say, anyone who values freedom and prosperity should welcome that. But state-sanctioned parenting courses are not the answer.
A better approach would be to reform tax and benefits to create incentives for couples to stay together, have no more offspring than they can afford and make sure their children turn up to school on time.