Gina Ford vs Nick Clegg

It should be no contest, you’d have thought. Public spat between million selling child-care author and a politician. Who’s the public going to instinctively trust? And what’s the general tenor of online comments on the stories going to be like?

So when I saw the news that Nick Clegg has said that Gina Ford’s highly prescriptive and detailed child care instructions weren’t for him and his family, I expected the coverage to be at least mildly critical and the online comments to be far more so.

That’s not how it has turned out though. It’s both to Nick’s credit (the reasons he gave, about trusting parents’ instincts and not being slave to detailed orders from someone else, are good) and to Gina Ford’s discredit (with her comments suggesting that Nick Clegg’s comments mean he’s not fit to be Prime Minister and disagreeing with her book is an insult to millions of Britons). One Telegraph writer has even talked of the “menacing tone” in Gina Ford’s comments.

It’s also striking how few and far between defenders of Gina Ford have been online. Tweets today expressing a view have been around 9:1 in favour of Nick Clegg or criticising Gina Ford.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail is not exactly normally a hotbed of commenters who have nice things to say about Liberal Democrats but the balance of comments and votes on comments so far has very much been with Nick Clegg and against Gina Ford. Likewise, though a little less surprisingly, over on the original story in the Sunday Times the balance is very much against Gina Ford.

In a minor miracle, even some commenters on The Scotsman have had a nice thing or two to say about Nick (and if you have had the misfortune to wade through previous comment threads there with the highly predictable, repetitive and rude comments, you’ll know what a remarkable occurrence that is).

For a million selling author who says that around two million people following her advice, the fans of Gina Ford seem remarkably thin on the ground.

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  • I’m pleased to say that I’ve never heard of Gina Ford and her authoritarian ideas, and all credit to Nick for not going along with the latest in a line of so-called parenting experts who profess to know better than a child’s parents how that individual should be treated. If you need someone to tell you what to do try Jean Liedloff, ‘The Continuum Concept’ and Deborah Jackson, ‘Three in a Bed’. If you adopt their philosophy your life may be really difficult for a few years (but if you want an easy life don’t have children), but the people they become will make all the hard work in the early years worth it.

  • Ruth Bright 10th Jan '10 - 7:32pm

    Nick Clegg is absolutely right about Gina Ford’s ideas – but watch out – she has been known to sue!

  • Helen Mayer 10th Jan '10 - 8:26pm

    Well said Nick!

    And well said Tony Hill. I follow a mix of ‘Continuum Concept’ and Dr Sear’s ‘Attachment Parenting’ and weirdly enough I’m halfway through reading ‘Three In A Bed’. Our 7 month old baby sleeps happily with us all night and wakes up either when the alarm goes off or till 9.30am at weekends and has done for months.

    If our ancestors had followed Gina Ford and stuck us under a bush 200 yards away to scream for hours on end (lest we let the little tyrants control us…) we’d have become extinct as a species pretty fast!

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jan '10 - 9:24am

    I had no idea who Gina Ford was either, but I guessed from context, and I can see after a little research, that I’m right – she’s one of these people who advocate a very strict routine for babies. Well, I can sort of see the point in this – I do see a lot of children (some of them over the age of 18) who have never been taught self-control, and so are rather pathetic individuals at the mercy of their surface level desires. I have some ideas about the ability to control oneself being the first step in liberalism which I have never got round to writing down, it’s essentially about enslavement to oneself, or at least of one part of the mind over another.

    However, I can see that Ms Ford’s stuff is very crude and mechanical, and a glance at her website and seeing it’s a big sales pitch for her products puts me off right away. Then I read her response to Nick Clegg:

    What is sad about this statement is that it comes from a supposedly intelligent man who would have us believe that he is capable of running Great Britain. Clegg may think his comments are funny — and indeed in one way they are, as he has just insulted the parenting choice of more than 2m British voters.

    Well, I am not Mr Clegg’s greatest fan, but after this I go running to his defence. He knows what he is doing – he’s a parent of several young children. He is speaking from experience, and expressing his personal view on this stuff, having tried it – it didn’t work for him and his children. It seemed to me he was being perfectly sincere here, not ‘trying to be funny” or making any political point, just being a dad.

    And here’s Ms Ford acting like some spoilt brat who’s been told “No, you can’t have everything exactly your way”. Instead of accepting that different people have different ideas, or even that maybe what works for some kids and not for others, she’s having a screaming tantrum. I think we know, from Ms Ford’s own manuals, how you deal with kids who act like that.

  • James Robertson 11th Jan '10 - 11:31am

    “I can sort of see the point in this – I do see a lot of children (some of them over the age of 18) who have never been taught self-control, and so are rather pathetic individuals at the mercy of their surface level desires. I have some ideas about the ability to control oneself being the first step in liberalism which I have never got round to writing down, it’s essentially about enslavement to oneself, or at least of one part of the mind over another.”

    Very insightful, Matthew. I work in mental health and couldn’t have put it as well myself!

    As for Gina Ford…I’ve heard of her but don’t know a great deal about her. However, I naturally have a greater distrust for those with huge egos and authoritarian beliefs who misguidedly think they are experts in child development.

    Well done Nick Clegg. As Lynne ays, it’s refreshing to see our political leaders appearing natural and “real”!

  • Richard Grayson 11th Jan '10 - 11:32am

    We tried to follow Gina Ford with our son, which would have been at exactly the same time as Nick was trying it as our son and his first have about a fortnight between them. While lots of people have success with the method, lots of people don’t. I’m afraid we were in the latter category and abandoned it. I feel that whether or not it works depends on the child. I don’t believe people who say it can work with any child. People without children (and that includes Gina Ford) often seem not to realise that ‘you just have to get the child into a routine’ (which is what we thought) really is not as easy as it sounds. So I applaud Nick for saying what he did. Been there, done that!

  • I read Gina Ford’s comments in the newspaper, and thought her reaction was really over the top. Her books are the same – its my way or don’t bother. We looked into it when our first child was born, and guess what, we didn’t bother. It takes routine to a different level and I started to feel a failure because my son didn’t read the book and stick to the routine! I didn’t think that Nick’s comments were immature, but certainly think Ms Ford’s were.

  • Hooray! At last, this incredibly important issue is broached by a politician. The rather dangerous approach to childcare recommended by Gina Ford (who has no children) and other authors (notably, Christopher Green’s ‘Toddler Taming’) is tried by millions of parents. A world of children taught from birth not to care for others by the example given them from the most influential adults in their life is worrying, to say the least. (Warlike tribes use methods such as these to keep their children aggressive!)

    I have recently been in discussion with our local libraries about the imbalance of their childcare books – I did a tally of the Ford parenting books listed on the catalogue: there are an enormous 124 (this does not include her cookbooks and children’s books). This next to e.g. one copy of ‘The Continuum Concept’, very few copies of the well-known Sears family series (who promote attachment parenting), one copy of ‘Three in a Bed’ (relegated to a small and un-central library). The library has responded to my suggestions of balancing books positively by buying several copies of a few that were suggested, but this does very little to counter the great mound of dehumanising parenting titles from Ford and others.

    This is a timely and important debate. Further down the line, the government are currently trying to ‘Gina Ford’ us: by taking away parents’ most important right to be ultimately responsible for their children’s education. The law currently deems parents responsible for their children’s education, which they can delegate to a school if they wish. Current proposals threaten to take this liberty away. The GF distrust of young children knowing whether they’re e.g. tired, hungry or sleepy is extended to their parents – the government has decided we can’t be trusted to decide the best education for our children.

  • Christine Headley 2nd Feb '10 - 11:57pm

    My days of small children are long over, but we too read ‘Three in the Bed’, and did it. I particularly enjoyed Libby Purves’ ‘How [not] to’ books – for the first one, she canvassed opinion among her friends and then passed on various ideas that might work, and through all three she carried on with the thesis that – gasp! – what works for some families may not work for others. A thoroughly LibDem attitude, I thought…. I took the books to Hong Kong when I moved there for a while as I had a year-old baby. Her sister aged seven read them avidly.

  • I love this story. Book sales of Gina ford don’t reflect figures of supporters of Gina ford. Advocating leaving babies alone to cry themselves into a stressed hopeless state is not good Parenting and nick is showing good leadership here by thoroughly rejecting Gina fords cruel ideas in favor of natural parental instincts. 🙂

  • Weird that an author thinks that sales figures translate directly into ardent disciples. If that were true then England is wholly Christian by virtue of bible sales…

3 Trackbacks

  • […] a lighter note, I am really pleased Nick Clegg has had a pop at Gina Ford. People buy Ford when at their most neurotic about kids. I suspect it does not get many customers […]

  • By Nick Clegg to set out election fight – Freedom Central on Mon 11th January 2010 at 1:21 am.

    […] If that means having an opinion, and inducing fury from the likes of Gina Ford, to the delight of many – carry right on ahead Nick. We are looking forward to it. Share […]

  • By The LDV Friday Five: 15 January 2010 on Fri 15th January 2010 at 8:24 pm.

    […] (20) by Mark Pack 3. NEW POLL: Who is your Liberal Voice of the Year? (22) by Stephen Tall 4. Gina Ford vs Nick Clegg (12) by Mark Pack 5. Liberal Youth … the story continues (26) by The […]

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