John Cowan - Step Up and Butt In

Publish Date
Friday, 21 April 2017, 12:34PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan


Gidday. I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place

This is a family tip rather than a parenting tip -  it’s about the way we, as adults, relate to other adults in our family and outside it.

My sister has become gravely ill and I flew to be with her. Amongst the sad stuff that is going down, there is something wonderful as well: it is amazing seeing my widely scattered family turning up– children and nephews and nieces and grandkids flying in from America and distant parts of Australia or driving hours to be there, to show their love, to help her and each other.  Sometimes there are too many people wanting to help, sometimes there’s a bit of chaos, but honestly, it is mostly fantastic and it means such a lot to my sister.

I was very proud of my family as they all worked to shoulder some of the load. Of course many families would do the same, but in my work with families I’ve seen some people reluctant to get involved with others’ crises and illnesses, even within their close kin. It’s not so much selfishness as shyness, doubting whether it is the right thing to do or not.  I’m glad that there is some cultural DNA in our family – which I sure we all got from my Mum and Dad – which means our first instinct is to push past the shyness, and to start helping. And it’s good.

I said that this was not really about parenting but, really, if we have kids, everything we do impacts them. If they see loyalty and generosity in us, we are more likely to see it blossom in them. Our example is the best way to teach these things to our children.  Wouldn’t it be great to think that, in the long distant future, when we are no longer around to look out for our kids, they will be looking out for each other and, when needed, they will step up and butt in and do some good.

About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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