Soft approach urged for Pacific parents

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Pacific Island parents are being called on to change tough attitudes at an event in South Auckland.

The Gladiators of Change programme aims to turn tough fathers - and now mothers - into encouraging and understanding parents.

Initiated by the Anglican Trust for Women and Children in Otahuhu, the event has been running for three years but tonight will be the first time a session aimed at mothers will be part of it.

At the event Pacific Island role models, including ex-All Black Va'aiga Tuigamala, Laughing Samoans comedian Tofiga Fepulea'i and former policeman Nick Tuitasi, promote positive parenting.

Mr Tuitasi - who has been managing the Ministry of Social Development's Pacific Youth Development Strategy for the past two years - says the Gladiators event is about changing the view among Pacific parents that being tough is the way to raise children.

"A lot of Pacific kids are just scared of their parents. That's not good.

"There's been cases of parents saying: 'You will pass [exams] or else' and when they fail, the kid looks at it, is scared and hangs himself in the garage.

"Gladiators is about building relationships with your kids so they feel safe to approach you with their issues," Mr Tuitasi said.

The event - held at Otahuhu College - will address traditional cultural views and expectations on children as young Pacific Islanders growing up in New Zealand.

Around 500 men turned out to last year's event - which was originally aimed at changing tough attitudes of Pacific fathers.

But the programme has been expanded to include Pacific mothers and tonight Unitec's Linda Aumua will take to the stage.

"There's lots of expectations - pushing kids to be lawyers and doctors. Not letting kids go on school trips - things like that," Mr Tuitasi said.

"It's about changing attitudes."

Michelle Ball of the trust says the Gladiators initiative is a very Pacific and fun way of dealing with serious issues.

"It gets people laughing and gets them really energised - before talking about the hard issues," Ms Ball said.

"Having all these role models speaking to them gets them thinking: 'Maybe I need to look at how I do this with my kids'."

Ms Ball said it was just one way to encourage closer relationships between parents and children.

"It's about creating positive and focused children - rather than the truancy officer knocking on your door," she said.

Gladiators of Change will be held at Otahuhu College, 74-75 Mangere Road, Otahuhu at 6.30pm.

- NZ Herald

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