|Alan and Danny in Honiara. © Mother’s Union/Anne-Marie Clive
Used with permission, 2016
Danny and Alan are ex-prisoners. They met in the Honiara Men’s Prison, where they were serving time for various offenses, some violent. Whilst there, they heard of the Positive Parenting Program that was being run by the Mothers’ Union and the Anglican Church of Melanesia, supported with ABM funding. Curious about what this program might involve and inspired by the good reports of other inmates who had attended, Danny and Alan joined in. They could never have guessed at that moment just how life changing this decision would be.
The Mother’s Union Pacific Coordinator, Anne-Marie Clive, interviewed both men on a recent monitoring visit. She spoke with them about their experiences, and was inspired by their newfound passion for positive parenting.
What was life like before the Positive Parenting program?
Alan: We are used to ignoring each other’s feelings. We don’t really get taught, you know, how to think of what other people might be feeling about something.
Danny: That’s just our cultural ways. I didn’t know there were ways to do parenting before, our cultural ways are just….different.
What is life like now you’ve done the Positive Parenting program?
Danny: The program gives clear advice and views on our cultural practices, suddenly I realised this is wrong. There is value in a family. The PPP doesn’t get RID of our culture, it just improves it. We’re used to culturally degrading women. We judge women as labourers and men as the owners, the dictators – the PPP makes you realise that’s not fair, it helps you see women and children as important and that you should treat them that way.
Alan: It changed the way I communicate, I used to dominate, I gave direction without asking others opinions, I made all the big decisions for the family that weren’t always right, now I want to talk about those decisions with them and make joint ones.
It’s like love came with Christ, the PPP came from this love, and I now have this love for my family. I used to see family as replaceable, I had in my head thoughts of ‘I can get another one, I can leave if it gets tough.’ Now I realise you can’t just treat them as if they are disposable.
|Drawings aid in the communication of ideas during the
Parenting workshop. © ABM/Kate Winney, 2016
How long were you in prison for?
Danny: 6 months.
Alan: 3 years
What practical ways will PPP change your behaviour?
Danny: My motive towards my nieces and nephews was to discipline them so they wouldn’t turn into bad adults, they wouldn’t get arrogant, they wouldn’t misbehave, and they would be good children. I wanted to protect them from being disrespectful and swearing, I used to do this by canning them and beating them with sticks. My sister didn’t agree with me doing this, she ended up reporting me and I went to prison.
I realise now you need to have proper conversations with your wife and children, it’s more important than sticks.
Alan: I used to whip my kids instead of telling them what they were doing wrong. I didn’t warn them, I just hit them. I disciplined them with the sticks.
Yeah, before the sticks spoke all the words. Now WE speak the words. The right words can be way more powerful than sticks. Some homes still have sticks, I see my neighbours with them, it’s everywhere! It needs to change.
Would you encourage others in prison to do the parenting program?
Danny: We already did! They’re desperate for it! They read our manuals and kept saying ‘this is me’ they can already see their weaknesses – family violence is what bought most of them to prison so they’re desperate to know how to work on it and make it better.
Danny, you phoned the Positive Parenting course coordinator the day you got out of prison, to ask to be trained as a facilitator. Why was that important for you?
Danny: It changed me. As a person, as a father. It changed me mentally and saved my relationship with my family. I want this for other families. There are so many young families that need this before it’s too late…
|Children play in Honiara near their sea-side home. © ABM/Kate Winney, 2016
Alan: We move too quickly here! Dating isn’t really a thing so there is pressure to move fast into marriage with one person. Then, later things are hard and they think ‘I must have married the wrong person’ so they start to point the finger at each other. That’s when the violence starts.
Danny: That’s why you both have to want to be willing to try, because both people can point the finger not just one.
Now that you’re a trained facilitator, what do you hope to achieve?
Danny: The clue is in the name, it’s called the POSITIVE parenting program, it’s so positive! I read that in the Bible it says ‘my people are destroyed by their lack of knowledge.’ (Hosea 4:6) We HAVE this positive knowledge, we can’t hold it back from people, we need to share it. If we hold this knowledge back from them they will be destroyed by family violence.
ABM would like to thank every person who has generously donated towards this program. Your support is vital in equipping people like Danny and Alan for their roles as husband and father, enabling families to live together in peace and understanding.