Connecting with the past for parenting of the future
A parenting model based on pre-European times and aimed at tackling child abuse in the Maori community is being promoted by child advocacy organisation Te Kahui Mana Ririki – though a historian questions its accuracy.
Funded by the Children's Commission, the model is being touted as an answer to incidents such as the Nia Glassie case, in which the Rotorua three-year-old died from horrific injuries at the hands of those who cared for her.
The model is based on lullabies, proverbs and tribal stories from pre-European times. Researchers found that, in those times, children were seen as spiritual beings and treated with loving care and indulgence.
The initiative centres around the philosophy that children are perfect and in need of respect, love and a sense of belonging.
Dad Allan Jones attended the launch in Wellington on Thursday and said the philosophies should be well received in Maori communities.
"There's a nice kind of dovetail between the teachings of the programme and the history of Maori. It is a fantastic platform to get people talking and connecting with the past."
It would be a complementary resource for other parenting tools already available, he said.
However, the report has been criticised as well intentioned but inaccurate by Auckland University of Technology historian Professor Paul Moon.
"Overall, the heart of the report is in the right place, but I haven't seen any evidence to back up its findings," he said. "It is trying to get parents in the 21st century to live up to a model that is unrealistic and based on lullabies."
It was harmful to stereotype Maori when there was no difference between Maori and Pakeha parents in terms of violence. It would have been more useful to work on the problems of drugs and alcohol abuse in families instead, he said.
Te Kahui Mana Ririki director Anton Blank said the model was not about painting a golden picture and admitted there had been incidents of violence in pre-European times.
"We aren't ignoring that at all, but the point of this was to find a prevailing picture of parenting values. We found a wealth of knowledge and positive stories which we have adapted for a contemporary society."
Pre-European Maori families were reported as ones in which grandparents, uncles, aunts and minders were all committed to raising children, who were trained to do adult tasks.
Research had shown that observers had commented that the children and youth were years ahead of European children and youth in all aspects of life.
Children's Commissioner John Angus said the story of indigenous parenting was relevant to all New Zealanders.
"I was interested to read that Maori children, often as young as four years old, were included in important decisions and attended hui. The kaumatua respected their opinions and welcomed questions from the young attendees."
The model sets out parenting techniques such as walking away when angry, and praising and enjoying children. It will be introduced to Maori families in the next 12 to 24 months.
The Dominion Post