Recent years have seen a cultural shift in the way childrearing is conceptualised and targeted by politicians and policy makers. The once-accepted notion that family relationships lay outside the remit of state intervention is being increasingly challenged. More specifically, parenting is being prioritised as a mechanism for tackling wider social ills such as crime and poverty. Analysis of political rhetoric and policy initiatives reveal a class specific focus on disadvantaged families as failing their children and society as a whole. Poor parents are viewed as reproducing a cycle of deprivation and anti-social behaviour, and are identified as needing state intervention to improve their childrearing skills. Drawing on qualitative research this paper highlights the gap between sanctioned parenting prescriptions and the lives and values of those they are directed at. As such, it encourages critical dialogue on the topics of social class, family, and public policy.