Published On: 1 May 2024Tags: , ,

We sat down with Tamym, a father who completed the 13-week Strengthening Families Strengthening Communities (SFSC) programme.  His attendance was due to his wife signing him up, however, he was was initially hesitant. Tamym now describes the journey as life-changing. Since completing SFSC, he has become an active research participant in many of the Foundations projects and highlights the need to have the voice of people with lived experience embedded into research. 

How did you first encounter the SFSC course, and what motivated you to participate as a parent?

My wife reached out to our social worker, she wanted a course that would help us to become better parents and strengthen our relationship with our child. She kept saying ‘there must be something out there’, and eventually, they sent us SFSC. I was sceptical, as I always am.

At first, I was motivated by competitiveness. I want to prove that I could be a better parent than my wife, I wanted to change the way everyone else behaved. I didn’t recognise myself as contributing to the problem.

Reflecting on your SFSC experience, how did it influence your parenting approach and your relationship with your co-parent?

Before SFSC, I shouted a lot. I was demanding, not only as a father but as a husband. I associated ‘machoness’ with being a father. I could be manipulative, demanding affection. I wanted my family to respect me, rather than love me.

I’d describe myself as an old-school man, with a traditional African upbringing. I took this into my relationship. I learnt from my parents and I couldn’t see anything wrong with how I’d been raised. I used to say the same to my wife. I was condescending, I’d belittle her, why couldn’t she control the kids in the way my mum was able to? 

When we started SFSC, I’d start trying to apply what I’d learnt. Slowly, slowly I started to see changes, and then all of a sudden it was like magic, I was heard. I didn’t have to shout to make myself understood, I didn’t have to become angry or aggressive – I could just use my words. It was at this point that I really started to reflect on my relationship with my wife. I understood why she felt she wasn’t able to be a ‘good’ parent, how could she when I was constantly belittling her? I had expected her to be a super parent, even though I was not. 

That’s the thing with SFSC, you go into it not seeing yourself as the problem. I thought I was going to change everyone else, but somewhere in the process, it was me who changed.

Could you share any examples or anecdotes illustrating how your participation in the SFSC programme has positively impacted your children and your partner?

SFSC made me understand that children actually want boundaries, they need guidance. As adults, we are so preoccupied by freedom, but children don’t really understand what that is. We started to put these boundaries in place for our children, things like reward charts, focussing on the positives, not consequences. If I saw my child doing a behaviour I didn’t like, I’d think about how I could  turn this into a positive way to get them to do the thing I wanted to see. I had to cut out the outside noise – my parents were constantly telling me about how my children should respect me. But soon, even they could see the children responding positively. They started to understand.

The focus on positive behaviour is something my wife and I applied to our relationship too. I’d start telling my wife ‘you’re really good at this’. The focus became on the skill set each of us had, and how we could bounce off one another to work as a team. By the end of it, we could only see the good each of us brought to the relationship. It saved our marriage.

What specific aspects of the SFSC course resonated with you, leading you to become actively involved in the Foundation’s research studies?

I think what resonated with me the most was the focus on introspection, the ‘I statements’, the language changes that SFSC introduces you to. Reflective listening is a huge part of SFSC. I used to do a lot of finger pointing, it was everyone else’s fault. SFSC makes you stop using the finger and start using the thumb, which points toward you.

The SFSC manual became like a bible for me. I felt like I owed the programme so much. When the researchers approached me, they explained that they wanted to turn this into a non-referral programme. It felt like an opportunity to give back. It’s rare to feel like something has really impacted your personal life, your relationship, your house.

When I arrived at the first research session, it was a little daunting as it was all women other than me. I soon realised how important it was for the research to capture a man’s perspective too, what resonated with me and how I implemented SFSC into my life. The researchers would take us along the process and give us updates, it was exciting. I started to see how my insights could help them reach more men. SFSC was life changing for me, I wanted to help other men experience this.

What inspired you to engage in our project focusing on the experiences of young fathers in prison during this transition?

I was motivated by my lived experience. I’m an ex-con, I know the struggles, the lack of opportunity when you leave prison. I also understand how being from an ethnic minority background can make this harder. For most of us, we try to hide our convictions. I was surprised when the researchers said they actually wanted to hear about this experience. When you go through what I’ve gone through, you’re at the bottom of the list. I never thought I’d get an opportunity like this, ever.

When I was introduced to the other participants, it was almost like therapy. We all came from different backgrounds, but the story was the same. We experienced the same challenges, the same problems, the same traumas.

In your opinion, what significant outcomes or changes could arise from involving more parents in SFSC, particularly when engaging young fathers in prison? How does your experience support this perspective?

The research team said to me ‘this could be life changing for fathers in prison’, I was honestly shocked that SFSC could be rolled out in prisons. I knew the obstacles they would face, the resistance they’d get from governors. I also knew how valuable this knowledge would be for prisoners. Prison is not a rehabilitating place, there’s nothing that stops you from committing crimes again and I saw first hand people who treated it like a revolving door. Even the prison staff expect to see you back again. I saw this as a way to break that cycle.

Programmes like SFSC make you introspect. Okay, you’ve made a mistake, you’ve ended up in prison, but now let’s focus on how we make sure this doesn’t happen again. As the project went on, it felt incredible. We were developing something that felt like it could really work in the prison service, because we had that experience and understood what was needed. I don’t think research can be done without the contributions of participants with lived experience.

If you’d like more information on the Fathers Together project, please contact or