People of Inspiration Part 4 – Rob Parsons, Gifted Communicator Who Inspires, Moves and Warns

“You don’t have to have everything together to make a difference to people’s lives. You just have to share your brokenness.”

So says Rob Parsons, author, public speaker, and founder of the charity Care For the Family.

Rob Parsons OBE (credit
Rob Parsons OBE (credit

Most people don’t want answers,” says Rob. “They can find their own answers. They just want to know they’re not alone.

Care For the Family is a national charity which aims to promote strong family life and to help those who face family difficulties. And of all the charities I support, this is the one charity where, when you receive letters whose ultimate purpose is to ask you for more money, the letters are always worth reading for their own sake – even if you are most definitely not in a mood to be asked for more money. Rob’s letters are always funny, touching, moving. His letters are a gift in themselves.

The son of a Royal Mail postman and an office cleaner, Rob says that when he received his OBE from the Queen he thought of saying, “My dad used to deliver letters for you.”

Rob is a perfect example of someone who has built his success on vulnerability. Over the years he has shared many of the joys and sorrows of his own family life; the mortification, the pain, the insecurity, the sense of failure. I feel I know his wife Diane, and his son Lloyd and daughter Katie almost as well as Rob himself. The stories he shares often amaze me; they always touch a nerve of truth. I trust that he shares nothing without permission! And all I can say of Lloyd is that if I were to meet him in person, I would think, Your reputation precedes you, Lloyd.

I have been listening to Rob, and reading his books, for several years now. When I first heard him speak my children were young. When he spoke about teenagers, I thought, “Oh, I don’t have to worry about this teenage stuff – that’s years away.”

Now, however, I listen to Rob talking about teenagers, as I did last Tuesday evening in Birmingham, and think, “Yes. This is true. I have said those things. I do those things. That is what happens. That is what they do. That is how I feel about it.”

Rob says he built Care for the Family on vulnerability. “That is part of my story.”

On several occasions over the last few months I have commented on blogs or responded to online posts or newspaper articles by referring back to Rob Parsons, and what I have heard him say, and what I have read in his books.

This is because the same issue comes up again and again. Either people feel they never knew their father well when they were growing up; or fathers wish they had spent more time with their children when they were young.

On each occasion I have referred to Rob Parsons, and what he says about fathers. The important thing is to spend ordinary time with your children, he says. That is the time that really counts. Not the time you spend with them on expensive holidays you took them on because you worked “all the hours God sends” all year and often into the evenings and Saturdays, earning money to pay for the expensive holiday.

That expensive holiday will evaporate. Just being there, in ordinary time. So that you are around to listen, and to understand, and to chat, and to know things about your children. That is the most important message to all fathers.

Rob trained as a lawyer, but he then became a public speaker and writer. He could well be a stand-up comic – but to that gift he adds poignancy, sadness, and ultimately a powerful spiritual message.

Rob is a man who inspires, moves, and warns.

I commend him to you. If you haven’t read any of his books, please do.

Rob Parsons: A Wise and Entertaining Guide to Good Family Relationships

Rob Parsons has beguiled,moved,and doubled me up in laughter several times on this subject, both in person as an inspirational speaker, and in writing. Now he has again written on a topic that should be closely studied by policy-makers. If you’re a parent, and you’d sooner your child achieved their critical acclaim and professional success in a couple of decades time by some other means than publishing their misery memoir, Rob Parsons sets it out in very simple,clear terms in “The Sixty Minute Family” (pub.Lion).

One of his answers is as simple as a father spending ordinary time with his child – just “being there”. And beyond that is a truth: “relationships matter more than money”. I expect many more books will be written in more complex terms, saying the same thing.

Within classic story structure, what is the one most familiar trope a writer can always rely on? It’s the Dysfunctional Parent/Child relationship. The Disney story writers trade on it, the psychiatrists and counsellors make their living from it; the radio interviewers and TV chat show hosts recognise it as their most fruitful area of analysis.

Reading what Parsons has to say now (the book was published in 2010)I feel his stance has toughened since I first heard him on this subject. This book gives strong clues to the powerful influence of physically and emotionally absent parents upon the society we live in. But to end on an uplifting note, it may be, as Parsons says, that “most of us are doing a much better job of parenting than we think – and it normally turns out better than we dared hope”.

SC Skillman