It is the job of the children to smash the calabash

A calabash (taha) was a gourd that held precious oils and water. They were treasured object. The taha stands for the tipuna rules and tikanga. Children were expected to explore the boundaries and break some rules. They need to learn and grow without fear.

The Tikanga Ririki Strengths-Based Māori Parenting Programme is based on evidence found in Mana Ririki’s research into traditional Māori parenting. Through academic research and application, the six week course promotes violent free parenting by learning about the traditions of the Māori culture and the fundamental belief that children are perfect, the face of Tupuna (ancestors) and should be treated as gifts. As Māori mothers learn about tupuna values and beliefs, they are encouraged to break cycles of violence they may have experienced in their own childhood. They are challenged in the programme to pull apart discourses Māori face on a day to day basis. Māori are disproportionately represented in a number of statistics including children in care. Through this programme the mothers are encouraged to explore who they think they are, and what they represent, not simply accept and then conform to social stigmas.

ATWC’s Irena Giles and Rangi Palmer facilitated the Tikanga Ririki programme in the Avondale community at the beginning of 2018. For two hours every Monday six mothers would meet together to set goals, sing, share Māori proverbs, learn about their history and traditional beliefs, listen to stories, and study parenting strategies that they could then apply at home. Two young women who thrived on the programme were eager to share their experiences …

Tamariki need aroha (Children need love)

Charissa, mother to 2 gorgeous children, Rui (16 months) and Waiata (4 months), first heard about the Tikanga Ririki programme from her Family Start social worker Initia Rall. Charissa hasn’t lived in Avondale long, having moved away from family and friends because of the availability of housing. She felt very isolated at home, struggling to cope with her energetic, boisterous little boy and finding herself slipping into depression. Charissa attended the first session, apprehensive and insecure about whether it was for her. It turned out to be exactly what she needed.

Sky was referred to Tikanga Ririki by her social worker Rangi Palmer. Sky is a mother of 3, Velcris (5) Ataahua-Lee (2) and Unity (5 months). She too struggled with feelings of isolation and was keen to mix with other young women like herself. While Sky initially attended the programme with a limited understanding of her Māori roots, she can now say that she is proud of her culture and heritage, thankful for the knowledge that she gained over the 6 weeks.

Tamariki need turangawaewae (Children need to belong)

Writing, roleplay and discussion during the sessions explored turangawaewae – “a safe and trustworthy place to stand to explore whakapapa and whanaungatanga”. All the mothers were encouraged to set goals at the beginning, placing their children at the centre and bringing their focus to their parenting practice.

Charissa’s goal was to develop a greater level of patience with her son Rui. He has an extremely spirited personality and is at the stage where he is exploring everything. He can also be very physical when playing with his little sister Waiata and other children. Between the ages of 12-18 months major developments in cognitive skills and learning take place in an infant’s brain, and at 16 months old Rui is starting to develop into the person he will become. By attending the parenting programme Charissa was putting herself in the best position to bring Rui up with understanding, education and respect; setting him up for the rest of his life. Rui has responded amazingly well to her new parenting techniques.

“We are both trying to help each other; he is starting off just like me. We are in this world alone but once you step out of your comfort zone and do what you have to do, you start making friends and you didn’t think you would”

Sky had been with Rangi and Family Start since her oldest daughter, Ataahua-Lee, was 6 months old. She is at the stage where she no longer needs the support of a social worker, and the Tikanga Ririki programme really helped to develop her parenting skills so she is now able to support herself. Sky’s goal was simply to learn as much as she could to bring her children up a traditional Māori way.

Tamariki have mana (Children have status and power)

Both mothers can now confidently say that they have adopted tupuna beliefs and have thrived with their new knowledge. Charissa knows she is more patient than before, and feels that she has established a deeper bond with her children, learning how to understand and to respond to their needs. Sky was able to change her attitude towards learning and teaching her children new things. Initially she felt abandoned and thought that no one would understand her point of view. She quickly found out, through being part of this programme, she is not alone and there are people who will listen and support her from a culturally appropriate lens.

Charissa has noticed a massive difference in Rui’s behaviour since she started to understand his needs from a traditional Māori perspective. He thinks he can do anything now because she has been so patient with him, and talks to him with love rather than frustration. She is in a good routine at home too, something that both children have responded well to.

Tamariki are wairua (Children are spirit)

The Tikanga Ririki programme has been successful in challenging the cycle of violence that the mamas were subjected too. The mothers that attended the course are motivated to raise their children in a traditional Māori way rather than how they went through childhood.

Not only did the programme teach parenting techniques, it also indirectly contributed to mana enhancing practice and whanaungatanga. The mums on the course have set up a private Facebook page so they can keep in touch and there are ideas bouncing around about starting a study group. It would be good for them to have something for themselves, to further support their connection to each other.

This programme is definitely needed in communities like Avondale, and ATWC is looking forward to future with plans to run Māori parenting programmes in Otahuhu and Glen Innes. These groups provide a safe, judgement-free place for young Māori women to learn what is best for their Tamariki through the eyes of traditional Māori parenting. This is the real essence of the programme.



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