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

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor