Childcare advice has a long history. This article comments on parenting programmes, a recent form of this advice. It argues that the use of parenting programmes has grown with support from three sectors. Firstly, those who argue from the evidence-based approach suggest that there is strong research evidence for the use of such programmes with children with conduct problems. Secondly, they are supported by theoretical models that emphasize the causal relationship between parental behaviour and child outcomes. Finally, the dominant rhetoric of social exclusion in current UK policy supports action at the level of individual parents' behaviour. The example of parenting programmes employed in parenting orders is used to open debate across the boundaries of disciplines. Tensions between this use and the evidence and theories presented in favour of parenting programmes are discussed, highlighting the difference between a therapeutic focus on family problems and a policy focus on problem families.