No choices, no treats and certainly no mollycoddling: The hands-off parenting methods that didn"t do Boris and Rachel Johnson any harm

No choices, no treats and certainly no mollycoddling: The hands-off parenting methods that didn't do Boris and Rachel Johnson any harm



16:46 GMT, 15 October 2012

Attachment parenting is the latest trend for modern mothers and fathers wanting the best for their babies.

The method focuses on recognising a child's emotional needs and includes co-sleeping, constant skin-on-skin contact, and extended breastfeeding.

Advocates say that it is vital in raising well-balanced children. Tosh, says author Rachel Johnson, who maintains that 'wet parenting' is exactly what is wrong with children today.

Rachel Johnson, pictured here with brothers Stanley and Boris, laments the loss of hands-off parenting

Rachel Johnson, pictured here with brothers Stanley and Boris, laments the loss of hands-off parenting

Rachel, the younger sister of London Mayor Boris Johnson, is one of the celebrity authors to contribute to a new tome on British manners for Waitrose.

In her chapter on children's behaviour the writer laments the 'wretchedly indulgent' state of modern parenting.

In contrast, life in the Johnson household was character-building and toughening as Rachel, Boris and their two siblings Leo and Jo learned to fend for themselves as their busy parents carried on living their lives.

The children were clothed, fed, and sent to the best schools father Stanley Johnson, a former MEP, and mother artist Charlotte Johnson Wahl could afford.

But largely their parents got on with their own lives, teaching Rachel and her siblings a valuable lesson that the Londoner wishes her and her peers could pass on to their own children today.

Rachel says: 'Our parents provided us with the essentials then got on with their own lives.

'Which makes me realise that my parents were brilliant, not for what they did, bit more for what they didn't do.

'There was not the expectation of having every wish granted, as there is now, and that is the best thing that my parents could have given us.'

Boris Johnson as a child

How Rude! Modern Manners Defined is published by Waitrose to celebrate the 75th anniversary of joining the John Lewis partnership

Boris Johnson, pictured here as a child, and his siblings benefited from having parents who did not bow to their every whim according to an article by sister Rachel that features in a new Waitrose book on modern manners

How Rude! Modern Manners Defined … an extract by Rachel Johnson

'My mother tells the story of how, when we lived in Washington DC, she was racing to meet my father with Boris, aged 4, and me, aged 3.

'As a crowd pressed behind us to cross Pennsylvania Avenue I refused to cross. In the end, she had to pick me up by my hair, at which point a woman tried to grab me shrieking: “You don't deserve to have that little girl!”

'But she did deserve me; rather, I didn't deserve her. One of her most revealing relics of the tribal Johnson childhood is a note composed by Boris and signed by all four of us saying: “Dear Mama WE are SORY that we were SO BAD today.”

'As for school, well, reports were read but not dwelt upon, as they were not my parents' business but ours. As for parental involvement, all I can tell you is that my father's proudest boast as a parent is not that his six children all went to Oxbridge but that he never, not once, attended a parent-teacher meeting at one of our schools.

'When I was 10 and Boris was 11, my mother would drop us off at the Gare du Nord with our school trunks, hand over a few francs for frites on the ferry, and then get back to the much more interesting business of painting or seeing her psychiatrist.

'We would get on a train to Ostend, where we would catch the ferry to Dover. At Dover we would get the train to Victoria, where we could change trains for Forest Row. There were very few trains to Forest Row then, so Boris and I would kill time in the Cartoon Cinema where paedophiles in brown macs were waiting for little lost prep school children like us, so they could offer us “sweets”.

'Then we would get our trunks on the stopping train to Forest Row. It would take all day, and was problem-free until the time when we did the journey in reverse during the Cold War of the Seventies and managed to get on the train to Moscow.

'It never did me any harm, but still, I can't repeat this sensible regime of character-building, toughening, anecdote-forging benign neglect for my own children … and nor, it appears, can anyone else.'

Rachel Johnson has written a chapter for ‘How Rude! Modern Manners Defined’, published by Waitrose to mark the 75th anniversary of joining the John Lewis Partnership. The book is priced 8.99 and available from today in Waitrose shops or from