We had the privilege of catching up with the founders of The Parenting Place, Ian and Mary Grant. We are so grateful for the legacy they have left, and for their vision for New Zealand families that continues to fuel and inspire our work.
What inspired you to start a parenting organisation?
During the mid-90s we were beginning to receive regular requests to speak to parents of teenagers about the special challenges that come with these years. For these events we would gather a panel of youth workers, provide resources, as well as keynote talks – and the response was almost immediate.For 30 years we ran a youth organisation (Youth for Christ) which involved creative programmes for young people. Using music, humour, big events, weekly clubs, camps, and town hall programmes, we involved thousands of young people and volunteer leaders in ways that addressed social, physical, mental and spiritual areas of young people’s lives. Some readers may remember the TV programmes The Herd and The Street, which Ian ran during those years.
When we were invited to a town, we suggested they put together a committee representing the schools, preschools, churches, service clubs etc. That way, we began to have these great city-wide parenting seminars with the whole town involved. Usually the mayor opened them and often the biggest venue in town was used. It was a great time and we are so grateful to all the volunteers that made it happen.
The rest of course is history, in that we began to develop marriage seminars, and seminars on raising girls and boys. Then later the Attitude programme in schools and Toolbox parenting groups were started. John and Naomi Cowan joined us with their unique style and gifts and the team grew from there.
Why do you think parenting is such an important job?
We learn in communities and the best community is a family. It’s where we learn that we matter, that we’re accepted and that other people have thoughts and feelings about what we do. We learn to celebrate others, and to be sad with them too. We learn to respect healthy authority, negotiate conflict and to take responsibility seriously. Basically, if we want children to grow up to be contributors to the community, they need parents who nurture empathy and altruism and who take seriously the privilege and responsibility of raising their children well.
When we have come from families where none of these things happened for us, we tend to repeat those patterns and add to our own stress. But if we learn some healthy ways of operating and how to include fun and communication into the family, we can change things for everyone.
How did Parenting magazine come about?
It started with a Hot Tips newsletter really. It was a way, in the early days, of staying in touch with those who had been to seminars, and of continuing to provide ideas and inspiration as their children grew. Eventually a friend who had started Mainly Music groups, talked us into turning it into a magazine. We were very green in the publishing world but we made it work through sheer enthusiasm. Jo Hood, then Althea Tollemache and Natalie Stephenson all worked with me at different times.
We designed a new entrant pack for the parents of five year olds and worked on as many different ways of distributing the magazine as we could. We were passionate about it and wanted to get it into as many homes, schools and waiting rooms as possible. This meant that we were constantly thinking of ways to get volunteers involved.
What’s your favourite Parenting magazine memory?
There are so many really. We had a lot of fun in the early days. We did our own photoshoots, and used all our friends and families. We developed posters on 25 ways to love your child and teaching values which became really popular, and we talked to New Zealand and overseas experts into writing for us at minimal or no cost. One of our favourite memories was the day we did a feature on healthy family salads. Althea and Natalie made three salads, photographed them and then we all sat down to eat. When the meal was done, they admitted they’d made up the recipes as they went. Luckily the salads tasted great!
If you could pick one ‘Hot Tip’ to share with our readers, what would it be?
Date your child. It sounds really basic but my hot tip would be the value of one-on-one time for a child. It is amazing how deep down each child is asking the questions, “Am I special?” and, “Do I matter?” Often behavioural issues will disappear when a child is given the gift of your time and attention. So dating your child, even a short outing like a breakfast with dad, or a once a month special date, make a difference and keep you in touch with their world and their thoughts.
Ian says, “Every parent, whether they realise it or not, is leaving a legacy. Most parents dream of leaving a good one for the next generation.” To leave our children with a platform of emotional stability, connectedness and a healthy moral compass is a blessing for future generations. Of course life skills and educational achievement matter, but as a family we value faith and good character above everything.