Parent mentor honoured

BY MELANIE LOUDEN
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2009
Ian Grant
MELANIE LOUDEN/Fairfax NZ
MAKE OR BREAK: Relationship expert and author Ian Grant says pressure from a crisis can either "make or break" a relationship.

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Parenting, youth and marriage gurus Ian and Mary Grant are an inspiration in the eyes of many.

But Ian has other ideas.

"We’re just two beggars telling other beggars how to beg for bread.

"When people hear that we struggle with stuff too, they link with us."

Ian, a renowned author, advocate and public speaker, was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in Monday’s Queen’s Birthday honours list.

"Because I’ve worked with thousands of volunteers, this award is really all about them," the Orakei resident says.

"I just happen to be the guy who thought about doing Summer Harvest – a camp for teens in the Bay of Islands."

Ian, 70, has a long-held passion for public speaking – despite the fact that he stutters.

"The big defining thing in my life is that I stutter. People said to me, ‘don’t make it a handicap’."

He didn’t. The committed Christian went on to appear on live television and radio and speak to youth and adults at conferences.

"The lights went on and I didn’t stutter."

Ian got involved with youth work and led Youth for Christ, an organisation involving thousands of teenagers in weekly club programmes, camps and large youth events for 33 years.

Then Ian and Mary were asked by Selwyn College and Kohimarama Presbyterian Church to host a parenting night at the school.

They were initially skeptical that such a seminar would be successful, but more than 400 people came to the first meeting, with a similar number the following week.

"That was the birth of Parenting with Confidence, now Parents Inc. That was 16 years ago," Ian says.

Hundreds of thousands of parents have since been to seminars around the country and Parents Inc, a not-for-profit organisation, now runs its Attitude programme in 92 percent of New Zealand high schools.

Parents Inc also hosts a parenting programme especially designed for Maori and home-based groups that equip parents with practical skills and strategies.

It also runs the famous Hot Tips seminars and recently opened The Parenting Place in Greenlane.

Ian says Parents Inc is "very blessed" to have entertainer Pio Terei present one of its programmes and the support of celebrities Simon Barnett, Jason Gunn and Petra Bagust.

"We had no idea it would turn out like this," he says.

All this from a man who "flunked" school certificate and university entrance.

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Ian later went to polytech to complete his education, but has no formal training in subjects like counselling or youth work.

Everything he has learned, and passes on to others, has come from personal experience.

"We are not experts. We’ve grabbed ideas from everywhere we can."

And, he says, they are still learning.

"We always want to keep tuning up on these things."

Ian, who has three married children and nine grandchildren, says the most rewarding part is when parents come up to him to say "thank you" after a tip learnt from the Grants has changed life at home.

"That’s worth a million dollars," he says.

"The joy for me is to see so many parents who come up to me and say ‘I went to Summer Harvest and it helped me through my teenage years’."

Ian says he and Mary, who were jointly awarded the Auckland Mayor’s Living Legend award in April 2006, are a "great team" and have no plans to retire.

"We’re enjoying it. I don’t want to retire. Why would you?"

- © Fairfax NZ News

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