Paranoid Parenting. Abandon Your Anxieties and be a Good Parent

By Frank Furedi.

Penguin Books

Price: £9.99

ISBN: 0 7 1 399488 6

In this stimulating and well researched book, sociologist Frank
Furedi analyses the reasons why “a lack of self-belief tinged with
an intense level of anxiety informs the parenting style of our

Studies show that parents generally are more afraid for their
children and less trusting of both strangers and carers than ever
before. Consequently they have become risk-averse and
over-protective. Yet statistics prove that childhood mortality,
accidents, abduction and murder have decreased in the last

Furedi blames scare-mongering by the media for the gap between
perception and reality. He gives graphic examples of the tone
adopted in the reporting of cot deaths; the MMR vaccinations;
working mothers; internet dangers and the recent NSPCC safety
campaign where “normal” parents were shown to be potential abusers.
He could have added the constant threat of litigation. The common
idea in popular culture that children are at risk has eroded
community solidarity. In the past citizens were more prepared to
keep an eye out for other people’s children.

Furedi also blames the proliferation of parenting professionals
whose advice emphasises the extreme vulnerability of children and
the responsibility on parents to prevent them being damaged for
life. Government, too, is quick to advise and exhort. This level of
proscription and intervention only serves to make parents feel
insecure and disempowered.

Furedi recommends parents to pay less attention to the experts
and to start believing in their own skills and common sense. He
believes that children need discipline and challenges for their
development. His theory is that parenting has to be learned through
experience and cannot be taught.

He tends to overstate his case but there is much truth in what
he says and he says it most engagingly.

Julia Tugendhat is a psychotherapist and

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