BOOK REVIEW / Naughty naughty Mummy and Daddy: The children we deserve - Rosalind Miles: HarperCollins, pounds 16.99

Share
Related Topics
WHY IS this book so irritating? Dr Miles is humane and on the side of light. Who does not wish every child to be wanted, cherished and raised to fulfil its potential? Who is not horrified by infanticide, malnutrition and famine? What monster lacks concern about the sufferings of young children without education, self-respect or hope, seeking oblivion in alcohol or drugs, street-cred in joyriding, or a purpose to their lives through an adolescent pregnancy? Who is not horrified by infanticide, malnutrition and famine?

What is more, many of Miles's suggestions for how children should be brought up are sensible. No one could object to unreserved love, respect for the individual, the encouragement of self-esteem and other good things. And yes of course government and society in general should be giving a higher priority to their weakest citizens.

The irritation arises for two reasons. First, Miles is so damn sanctimonious. 'Children are born innocent, both harmless and powerless,' she says: do as she does and your kids will develop into excellent adults. She and her husband apparently are doing a splendid job with their two - no divorce, putting work before family life or giving vent to bad temper or irrationality. She is typical of those women with flexible and well-paid jobs who cluck-cluck at mothers who work full-time in offices or factories.

Well, certainly many children are wrecked by bad and neglectful parents. But genes do matter, and sibling rivalry and other aspects of life can do damage that parents are powerless to control. Some of my best friends are parents, so although I never went in for procreation myself, I object to decent people, who are doing their best, being informed that if anything goes wrong with their children it will be their fault.

Miles's superiority is made most obvious through her admittedly entertaining device of salting the book with lots of finger-wagging at all sorts of celebrity sinners: fathers who leave - A N Wilson; people who have excessively large families - Mia Farrow; practitioners of physical punishment - Joan Crawford. Why couldn't they behave like the Mileses?

Even more irritating is her narrowness; when she looks round the globe, hers is the vision of an English provincial. Naughty Asians, valuing girls above boys. Silly old Pope, objecting to contraception and abortion. All these untidy notions must be rooted out and dealt with. Inter alia, 'we' - yes, 'we' - must ensure that free contraception 'becomes as much a human right as life, liberty and the pursuit of whatever we choose to pursue', and we must make abortion on demand 'an international right and imperative'.

I am no fan of His Holiness, and there are lots of nasty foreign habits I deplore, but I can at least recognise that the Pope is addressing great moral issues, and that the way of the English professional classes is not necessarily the only valid way.

The English are at their most annoying when they try briskly to tidy up worlds they do not understand. The image Miles conjured up to me was of Mary Poppins confidently setting out with a dustpan and brush to clear out the Augean stables.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More From
RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?