Our Tūpuna (Ancestors) Followed Lessons from Pūrākau

Pūrākau, or Māori ‘myths and legends’, as they’re commonly known, are an important part of Māori oral histories – stories of our past, handed down from generation to generation through story-telling. 

Why Are Pūrākau Important?

Pūrākau talk about the first beings, gods, their lives and their relationships as a model for tangata Māori (Māori people). Through these stories, we learn about love, marriage, healthy and unhealthy relationships and, of course, parenting, all in the spiritual world. Tangata (people) would copy in their own lives what they were told from these pūrākau.

Ranginui and Papatūānuku

Ranginui and Papatūānuku is the most well known pūrākau. They kept their tamariki close while they were young and they grew up in between their embrace. When the tamariki were old enough to leave their parents, they had to create the space they needed to go into the universe and forge their own lives. Different hapu and iwi tell this story slightly differently, as with all pūrākau, but this is the core part of the story.

Does anyone know who made this cartoon??

The Struggle With Te Wehenga (The Separation)

Ranginui and Papatūānuku didn’t want to be separated from each other or their tamariki. In this crisis time of separation, te wehenga, the tamariki spoke with care and respect to their parents while helping Tane push them apart. Rangi and Papa wept for each other rather than being angry with their tamariki. They still weep today. After the separation, their mokopuna/ grandchildren were given to them for their care, as with every generation after.

Ranginui. Image credit: Warren Pohatu http://warrenpohatu.blogspot.com/

What Do We Learn About Parenting Here?

From this one pūrākau, we learn:

  • That it’s best if pēpi and tamariki are kept close to Mum, Dad or the primary caregiver when they’re young.
  • Being close builds a strong and loving relationship between pēpi and parents, as shown by the behaviour at the difficulty of the separation
  • The closeness of the parents while their tamariki grew meant that the tamariki would learn different life skills to copy. For example
    • How to be parents
    • What a loving relationship between adults looks like
    • How adults talk to each other and their tamariki,
    • How to deal with troubles and challenges
  • When they’re ready, they will ask for space to do things themselves or try new things
    • And though you might be reluctant, you need to let them go and grow.
    • If it’s safe and appropriate, of course.

What You Can Do

Your Pēpi and Tamariki Need Your Time

Keeping your pēpi or tamariki close means spending time with them. You can do this by:

  • Pīkau – Wearing your pēpi in a baby carrier
    • Kiri-ki-te-kiri (skin-to-skin) and cuddling are good for their brain development
    • By carrying them with you, they also see and learn about the world
  • Help them learn about the world by:
    • Talking to them, singing to them, reading books with them
  • Be aware when you talk and act in from of your pēpi/tamariki
    • They are watching and learning how to behave from you
  • This pūrākau talks about spending all your time with your tamariki
    • Sometimes it’s not how much time you spend, but the quality of the time.

Fundamental Beliefs of our Tūpuna

  • Our stories are our whakapapa
  • We begin in the atua with the gods
  • The atua model is the parental behaviour they expect tangata (people) to follow
  • Parents show pēpi and tamariki good behaviour for them to learn
  • Our tūpuna were child-centred  
  • Tūpuna lives were dominated by values. These were rules/laws for all tangata to live by

Read the Research

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