Tepa is a young father who lives in Wainuiomata, in the Wellington region. He has four boys aged between four and 10 and a stepdaughter.
Tepa didn’t have an ideal upbringing as a child and it had a negative impact on him growing up. He worries about his parenting, and about his own children having a positive upbringing. He knows how important and influential his parenting skills are for their development, and for their futures.
If only parenting was as simple as reading a book.
To develop practical parenting skills, Tepa needed hands-on experience that suited his style of learning. But because Tepa works long hours to provide for his family, he had little free time. Most of the local parenting courses are targeted at stay at home parents and are run during the day when he is at work, so there aren’t many options for him to further his parenting education.
Tepa’s childhood experiences were not always positive. He says ‘these things gave me low confidence as a child, I was unsure of myself. Trust wasn’t a thing that seemed important in parenting when I was growing up.’
Despite his parents not passing on great parenting skills, Tepa recognised that he needed to change and improve the way that he was raising his children. ‘I didn't talk to them, I talked at them. I would tell them 'don't do that' or 'stop that'…it was all negative and I was losing their trust because they couldn't talk to me.’
Ben Awa, a local father who works for Plunket, knows that parenting is not as simple as reading a book - ‘no-one gives a man an instruction manual when he becomes a father.’
He saw the need for a dedicated father’s group in Wainuiomata, a parenting course that gave men practical experience and knowledge and not only taught them skills but enabled them to become teachers themselves. He called it “Improve for Change”, because men like Tepa know that they can’t change their children’s lives unless they improve their parenting.
Every Wednesday night at the local library, Ben leads the group through parenting course material. They learn how a Dad can better serve his family, support his children’s mother and become what Ben calls a positive ‘Brain Builder’ for his child’s mind. Every man attending is there by choice, and is trying hard to become the father he has always wanted to be.
The group is making a huge difference in Tepa’s community. Word has spread about how great the parenting course is, and there are so many fathers wanting to participate that there is now a waiting list to join.
Tepa, and the other men in the group, had never encountered anything like this before. Now they are creating their own handwritten Dad Handbooks that they write in every week, and use to guide their parenting.
Tepa takes careful notes every week for himself and also for his children. He hopes that when they become parents there will be a legacy of wisdom to pass down to help them to raise their children.
The men also get together with their children to put new skills into practice as a group. Ben has had swim coaches come along to teach the dads how to teach their own children, a practical skill for the fathers and an excellent bonding time with their children.
A few months into the course, Tepa noticed changes, ‘my kids are more talkative. It sounds like I have their trust as well as their respect and communication has vastly improved. It is subtle, but it’s still early. I can tell by the length of time we spend talking on the phone.’
The mums also see the difference, with one woman stopping Ben in the street to tell him “our family is so much better because of this course. Thank you.”
Ben describes how important this group is for the fathers, “if you have a happy home, you don’t mind going to a job that isn’t your dream job, because it supports your beautiful family."
It is no wonder that Tepa’s Dad Handbook is his children’s favourite book. It is changing their lives.
Every day around New Zealand, Plunket’s parenting courses are supporting people like Tepa to be better parents for their children. By supporting these programmes you can help children experience the happiness that comes with having engaged and dedicated parents and caregivers.