Māori parenting, from deficit to strength


  • Anaru Eketone Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato. A lecturer in the Department of Sociology Gender and Social Work at the University of Otago.




family violence, m?ori families, wh?nau, family violence information,


We have all grieved, been enraged and depressed about the death of Māori children at the hands of whānau . We can all name Māori children who have become terrible bywords for the failure of some Māori families to protect and nurture their children.

Over the years the recurring response has been to call for Māori families to take greater responsibility for both their actions and their whānau with parenting courses promoted as one of the ‘across the board’ solutions. In light of this a brief survey was done in 2003 to see what parenting information was available to Māori parents from the main social service agencies and information providers in Dunedin. Early on it was obvious that there was very little information specifically for Māori families and so the search was widened to look at what was available generally in Dunedin. This was not intended to be a rigorous quantitative study, but the numbers do give an indication of what resources were easily available to parents.

In all, 12 Dunedin information, health and social service providers were visited to see what was available to parents on parenting skills. Having been involved in health promotion, social work and a number of local community groups, I was confident that I had approached most of the likely organisations that would be expected to either provide, or have links to those providing parenting information to Dunedin parents.

Four of the providers ran courses for parents and information was gathered on the topics covered. Plunket ran a six-week course for parents of toddlers that covered issues such as toileting, nutrition, positive parenting, play, development and safety. Barnardos ran two courses, one on family financial management, and a five week course entitled, ‘Parenting with less stress and more enjoyment’. Catholic social service ran three courses based on its ‘Parenting Positive Families’ formula for parents with children under five, primary school age children and teenagers. The Family Care Centre ran a course called ‘Caring with confidence’. No course was targeted specifically at Māori families.

From the 12 agencies 21 pamphlets, posters, books and videos were available on parenting skills. In all there were only six resources on parenting skills that were aimed specifically at Māori families. Two were from the Children’s, Young Persons and their Families services and focused on positive things to do with children. The other four were focused on smacking and physical abuse. Three of these were from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the other, a video was from the Children and Young Persons Service. (This was a parallel video put out for Māori parents to the mainstream one on smacking. The mainstream video focused on real parents and how they dealt with discipline. The scene that stood out to me was a Pākehā father breaking down in tears admitting that he had smacked his child. The Māori version used actors where the woman in the story eventually beats her son to death.)

In all there were 28 resources or programmes available to parents. Six were targeted specifically at Māori and 22 were targeted at the general public. Each resource was assessed to ascertain the general themes and fell into three broad categories: communication, child/adolescent development and discipline.


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How to Cite

Eketone, A. (2016). Māori parenting, from deficit to strength. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 24(3-4), 75–80. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol24iss3-4id126