Solo mum blocks male bonding session

A father-son bonding session planned by a North Island primary school was cancelled after a single mother demanded to be included.

Two "Band of Brothers" seminars were arranged by Matakana School to help fathers get more involved in their sons' lives, and as a forum for dads to share their issues. One session was for dads and another was for fathers and sons.

A solo mum wanted to attend but was told she couldn't because her presence would inhibit discussion. She was told a mother and son seminar was planned for later in the year.

"We really just wanted an opportunity for the guys to open up and chat, and they wouldn't particularly want to do if there were females around - which I think is understandable," said principal Darrel Goosen.

The woman's son was welcome at the second seminar and the guest speaker offered a specific session with her and her son but she continued to insist on attending, Goosen said, so the school board decided to cancel the event.

"In hindsight we realise we may have offended some single parents, for which we apologise, as this was never our intention," said a school note to families.

Family First director Bob McCroskie yesterday said the decision to cancel the event meant fathers had lost a crucial bonding opportunity with their sons.

"Unfortunately it seems to be a society problem that we get held hostage by one person who gets offended," he said.

"I think the fact they were having other programmes specifically for mums shows that they are not ignoring their needs.

"Schools are starting to realise the importance of dads being actively involved in the education of their kids."

Other parenting experts said male-only groups were important to get men talking.

"At the end of the day, guys aren't the best at opening up. Scientifically we are told the females tend to open up much better and at a far deeper level, a lot quicker than men will," said Bruce Pilbrow, chief executive of the Parenting Place.

"From a school's perspective, fathers are the hardest audience to engage with. Anything that encourages a dad to get involved with their child's life in a positive way is really good," he said.

Psychologist Sara Chatwin, from MindWorks, said in today's society - where almost 50 per cent of Kiwi households are single-parent households - the session should have been promoted as a parent-child affair.

"I understand where the mother is coming from. The implications are that that child will feel incredibly left out if they are the only child without a dad who is going to a seminar like that."

Parents of children at Matakana School were disappointed the event had been cancelled.

"Everyone knows the school system is dominated by women teachers and women parents and modern thinking is that this is to the detriment of boys. It concerns me that what appears to be a men-driven effort to redress this has been abandoned," said a mother, who did not want to be named.

The school is planning a "more inclusive" replacement event.

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Sunday Star Times