Soft parenting techniques are ruining children's chances of succeeding in life before they even start school, David Cameron's poverty adviser said today.
In a call for a return for traditional values and 'tough love', former Labour minister Frank Field said: 'We used to set clear boundaries, and we loved children but they also knew what the rules were.'
In a major report for the Prime Minister, he highlights 'horrifying' research showing it is possible to predict whether children will hold down jobs and how successful they will be as adults by the age of two-and-a-half.
He believes the decline in parental standards began in the late 1960s with the 'loss of deference', leaving children increasingly confused about what was acceptable behaviour.
Mr Field also called for marriage and parenting lessons to be introduced in schools. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said there was clear evidence that two parents are generally more successful than one at bringing up children – and argued that pupils should be taught so in schools.
He pointed out that ethnic minority youngsters often do far better than their white counterparts as their families have retained traditional values.
He said that while most children brought up in poor families stay poor, 'Chinese children from poor families as a group do better than all other non-poor children, except non-poor Chinese children.
'Growing up in an ethnically Chinese family in England is enough to overcome all the disadvantages of being poor.'
The MP criticised Chancellor George Osborne for increasing child tax credits for less well-off children. The £2.5billion cost would have been better spent boosting the work of children's centres to try to improve parenting, Mr Field said.
And he said free nursery care – or even welfare payments – should be withdrawn from problem parents who refused to co-operate.
'We need to rethink,' he said.