As parents, we are our children’s first and most important teachers. When parents and families are involved in their children’s schools, children have better feelings about going to school and do better at it. In fact, many studies show that what the family does or does not has a greater impact on a child’s success or failure at school than how much education the parents have or how much money the family makes.
Many opportunities for the education of children are lost when parents fail to get sufficiently involved in their children’s life and work at school. This happens due to many reasons, chiefly among them being that parents don’t think they have the time, don’t know how, or that they don’t see any role in IT for them.
Although a parent’s role in their children’s learning evolves as children grow, one thing does not change: parents are their children’s models in every manner. Parents’ attitudes about education can inspire theirs, helping them develop into emotionally, intellectually, socially and morally capable individuals who will be able to take charge of their own educational journey.
Effective parent and family involvement in education is more than just participating in school meetings and events; it involves actively engaging with children’s learning, both at school and at home. When schools and families work together, children do better at school.
There are many ways in which parents can support their children’s learning throughout the school year. Parents can support their children at school by being positively involved and active in their children’s learning. Your attitudes, values and behaviors can positively influence your child’s education outcomes. Parents and families are known to have the most important influences on a child’s education. When you are positively engaged in your child’s education, they are more likely to perform better at school.
Why is parental involvement important?
Researchers have found evidence of the positive effects of parent involvement on children, families, and school when schools and parents continuously support and encourage the children’s learning and development. According to a study, “the most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status but the extent to which that student’s family is able to:
- Create a home environment that encourages learning
- Express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers
- Become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.
An analytical review of eighty-five studies that documented the comprehensive benefits of parent involvement in children’s education shows that parent involvement activities that are effectively planned and well implemented result in substantial benefits to children, parents, educators, and the school. These benefits include the following:
Benefits for the Children
- Children tend to achieve more, regardless of ethnic or racial background, socioeconomic status, or parents’ education level.
- Children generally achieve better grades, test scores, and attendance.
- Children consistently complete their homework.
- Children have better self-esteem, are more self-disciplined, and show higher aspirations and motivation toward school.
- Children’s positive attitude about school often results in improved behavior in school and less suspension for disciplinary reasons.
- Fewer children are being placed in special education and remedial classes.
- Children from diverse cultural backgrounds tend to do better when parents and educators work together to bridge the gap between the culture at home and the culture in school.
- Middle school and high school students whose parents remain involved usually make better transitions.
Benefits for the Parents
- Parents increase their interaction and discussion with their children and are more responsive and sensitive to their children’s social, emotional, and intellectual developmental needs.
- Parents are more confident in their parenting and decision-making skills.
- As parents gain more knowledge of child development, there is more use of affection and positive reinforcement and less punishment on their children.
- Parents have a better understanding of the teacher’s job and school curriculum.
- When parents are aware of what their children are learning at school, they are more likely to help when they are requested by teachers to become more involved in their children’s learning activities.
- Parents’ perceptions of the school are improved and there are stronger ties and commitment to the school.
Benefits for the Educators
- When schools have a high percentage of involved parents, teachers and principals are more likely to experience higher morale.
- Teachers and principals often earn greater respect for their profession from the parents.
- Consistent parent involvement leads to improved communication and relations between parents, teachers, and administrators.
- Teachers and principals acquire a better understanding of families’ cultures and diversity, and they form deeper respect for parents’ abilities and time.
- Teachers and principals report an increase in job satisfaction.
Benefits for the School
- Schools that actively involve parents tend to establish better reputations in the community.
- Schools also experience better community support.
- School programs that encourage and involve parents usually do better and have higher quality programs than programs that do not involve parents.
Parents can do a lot to support their children to get the most out of their schooling. The earlier parents become more actively involved, the better it is for their children. Here are some ideas for parents to consider!
1. Building a healthy and positive relationship with the school
Children are greatly benefited when parents manage to forge a close and positive relationship with the school. It is often seen that schools and parents maintain a defensive approach towards one another, constantly blaming each other when areas of improvement are noticed in children. This approach is detrimental to the best interests of all concerned.
As in any relationship, for it to work the school-parent relationship will have to be based on mutual trust and understanding, and a common goal of helping children achieve their best.
Here are a few general ideas that will help parents foster healthy relations with the school:
a) Stay informed about school rules and regulations. Make an effort to understand why these are in place as this will help you develop a more positive outlook towards them.
b) Stay informed about school activities and follow your child’s participation in them.
c) Get to know the staff working with your child at school. There are many people at your child’s school who are there to help him/her learn and develop. It would be very helpful to know who they are and to nurture cordial relations with them.
d) Don’t fail to attend school events scheduled for parents. Meet your child’s teachers and other supervisory staff as often as you can and find out more about his/her progress. Schools find it better working with parents who are more involved and better informed about the school’s activities and who show keen interest in their children’s ongoing progress.
e) Share your concerns with the school in a positive, non-critical and non-threatening manner.
f) Receive input shared by teachers about your child with a positive attitude.
g) See the school and teachers as your allies and work and collaborate with them as such.
Remember, the more positive and less defensive you become in your relationship with the school and teachers, the more positive and less defensive they too will become towards you.
2. Support your child develop academically
a) Develop a positive attitude about education and demonstrate it to your children. What we say and do in our daily lives has a strong influence on children’s attitudes toward school and learning and in building confidence in them as learners. Showing children the value of education and how it applies for an improved quality of life provides them with powerful models to relate to, and contributes greatly to their success in school.
For some parents who did not themselves have a stimulating and meaningful educational experience during their schooling days, remaining positive about their children’s schooling can be a real challenge. They must quickly surmount this challenge if children are to do well in school and enjoy doing it.
b) Show your child that you are interested in what he or she is learning at school. Help your child assume a positive attitude towards studies and praise them for learning new things.
c) Find out how your child is doing. Apart from attending scheduled teacher-parent meetings, make sure to seek regular updates about your child’s progress at school.
d) Avoid having unreasonable expectations from your child. Not all children will secure 90% all the time! Aptitudes vary, as do the degree of their intrinsic motivation, drive, application and ability to focus. Parents need to have a proper understanding of what their children are truly capable of, and constantly support and encourage them to achieve just that, no more and no less!
Another related tendency which parents should strictly avoid is comparing children with each other. Parents should never compare children, not even with their siblings. Every child is unique with it’s own capacities, faculties, aptitudes and potentialities. The purpose of education is to help each child develop to the full measure of his or her capacity and potentiality, not those of others. By constantly comparing children we are setting them up for competition, which when carried to extremes has very harmful impact on children.
Children’s realization that they simply cannot cope academically beyond what they are capable of in the face of unreasonable adult expectations, or when constantly compared with others, can result in undesirable outcomes. They will eventually burn out, become too aggressive in their behavior, or give up trying altogether.
e) Recognise the effort that your children put into their work. Parents, like most educators find it easier to form an opinion of their children’s academic performance based on their report-cards and seldom seem to notice the effort that they put into their work. Children feel more motivated when the people who matter to them most appreciate the effort that they put into their work, the end results thereof notwithstanding. They consequently work harder and enjoy their work more.
f) Apart from adopting a generally positive demeanor towards education and the work that their children do at school as suggested above, parents will do well to also adopt a positive attitude towards the academic subjects that children pursue.
Children’s attitudes towards academic subjects have been shown to be closely linked to their parents’ attitudes. Take the example of children’s performance in mathematics!
Students’ achievement in mathematics is a reflection of their parents’ attitudes. An enormous body of research has reinforced the significance of parents’ attitudes in influencing their children’s attitudes and achievements. Interestingly, it has been found that the father’s math attitude has a differential influence on children’s math attitude and achievement.
What all this simply means is that you need to be careful what you say to your children about math. If you say you hate math and that it is very difficult to master, you are shaping your child’s attitude toward the subject. Your children love you and seek to be just like you. They may pick up the false message that ‘math is difficult’ and you may inadvertently be filling them with a fear for math.
Make sure not to share your negative math experience, should you have had one, with your children in any manner. Instead, portray a positive attitude towards it, show children how math is everywhere, and encourage them. This way you can actually help your children take more interest in math, deal better with the common dread for the subject, and perform better in it.
By extension, the same theory applies to other academic subjects as well. Parents’ attitudes towards specific subjects can make or mar their children’s attitudes and performance in them.
g) Help your child develop higher order thinking skills. Contemporary classroom teaching tends to be so content driven that children are seldom required to go beyond the lower order thinking skills of memorization and retention. Engaging children in thoughtful and stimulating discussions and activities is an excellent way of helping children developing into thinkers.
Creativity is a most desirable higher order thinking skill and should be encouraged. Encourage children to pursue hobbies in arts, craft, music, or whatever will give vent to their creative abilities.
Improved thinking skills and enhanced creativity have been shown to result in vastly improved learning capabilities in children.
h) Make sure that your child completes assigned homework. Let your child know that you think education is important and that homework and self-study needs to be done each day. When at home from school, you can help your child by setting aside a special place to study, establishing a regular time for homework, and removing distractions such as the television and mobile phone during homework time.
It always helps when children are encouraged to follow a set routine at home, just as they do at school. Parents often undermine the importance of a structured daily routine for their children and allow them a lot of leisure and freedom when visiting home during holidays. By insisting that children follow a structured routine everyday which provides for quality self-study time, parents will be encouraging their children to be more responsible and work independently. Taking responsibility and working independently are important qualities for school success.
i) Never do the work assigned to your children for them. Children’s attitude towards academics and studies weaken when parents take it upon themselves to complete the homework or projects assigned to their children.
j) Encourage your child to read. Helping your child become a good reader is the single most important thing that you can do to help the child to succeed in school, and also in life. The importance of reading simply cannot be overstated. Reading helps children in all school subjects. More importantly, it is the key to lifelong learning.
k) Don’t allow your children to miss school unless absolutely unavoidable. School attendance is known to have a major influence on educational outcomes. Students who constantly miss school are more likely to suffer in their results at school.
l) Seek special help for your children if you think they need it. Some children are beset with learning difficulties which requires special help. Learning disabilities in children begin to manifest themselves when teachers begin to observe certain patterns of difficulties in behavior and academic performance. The surest response to such situations is to get children tested by a reliable clinical child psychologist, which will determine the nature and extent of learning difficulty in children, if any.
m) Help your children develop a positive attitude towards mistakes. Mistakes are often looked down upon in our culture even though we know full well that everybody makes mistakes. A positive attitude towards mistakes will ensure that children will experiment more with ideas, and engage more actively in self-discovery and self-learning.
n) Finally, never speak ill about the school or its teachers in front of your children. Instead of respect and regard for their school and teachers children will begin to nurture in their minds biases that are passed on to them by their parents. In the long run this will undermine the influence that the school and teachers can have on children rendering them increasingly ineffective.
3. Support your child develop emotionally and socially
a) As far as possible, allow children to deal with their own problems. Social problems such as teasing, name-calling, bullying and others are often rampant in schools. These, no doubt, need to be reported and schools have the responsibility to address them in the strictest possible manner as and when they occur. However, encouraging children to deal with the less menacing issues and not being too over-protective of them help them develop better social skills.
b) Spend as much quality time with your children as possible. Quality time implies engaging in stimulating conversation, or carrying out a task or activity together. Sitting and watching TV together is not spending quality time! By spending quality time with children parents contribute to their emotional development, stability and maturity.
c) Give children positive attention. Children’s emotional development requires them to receive the attention of their loved ones. But parents and teachers often pay attention to children only when they behave inappropriately and seldom pay attention to them when they behave well. This conveys a negative message to children–that they will receive the attention of people who matter to them only when they misbehave! This is the beginning of what is commonly called ‘attention seeking behavior’, the makings of a major social problem. Parents need to try and notice when children behave well and praise and encourage them for it. When children receive the attention of their caregivers for positive reasons, they will engage in such desirable behavior more often to receive more such attention.
d) Help children develop better appreciation of human diversity. India is a land of diverse people: of diverse regions, languages, cultures, religions, customs, food-habits and so on. Parents must help their children respect the diversity that they see around them. Greater respect and acceptance of the diversities that exist among their peers will equip children to work more effectively with them.
e) And finally, parents should refrain from ‘naming’, ‘blaming’ and ‘shaming’ their children when admonishing them for something they have done wrong. And more importantly, parents should never strike their children or punish them physically. All this will make children lose their self-esteem and self-respect, resulting in subsequent loss of self-confidence and ability to work well with others.
4. Support your child develop morally
Moral development shapes children’s value-system which in turn shapes their decision-making process. Children’s experiences from birth help mold the morals they eventually develop and practice.
Children develop moral values best when they see them being practiced around them. Thus, parents and teachers have the grave responsibility of modeling the moral values that they wish children to inculcate and develop, by reflecting them in their decisions, and in their words and actions. Remember that children will be picking up the wrong values if adult behavior is inconsistent with the values they propound, and their actions are not in conformity with those values.
Here are a few things that parents can do, in relation to their association with the school, to support their children’s proper moral development:
a) Be a role-model. As already mentioned, the moral values reflected in the behavior of their near and dear ones have a more profound and lasting impact on children’s moral development. We cannot expect children to learn and develop values unless they see them practiced around them.
b) Abide by and follow school rules. By doing so and insisting that children do so too, parents will be instilling in them the value for rule of law, orderliness, discipline and a host of other related values. By circumventing school rules parents are not only teaching their children the wrong values, but are also ensuring that they adopt a frivolous and callous attitude towards the school.
c) Don’t lie to obtain favors from school. It is very unfortunate that parents sometimes lie in order to secure a permission from school (such as leave of absence, visitation, etc.) which otherwise would not be granted. This happens with the full knowledge of children and is extremely damaging to the development of their value system. As they say, ‘Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues”. Willful exposure of children to lying will only serve to weaken their moral foundation.
d) Protect your children from too much competition. Competition has been traditionally lauded in India. Educational experts and policy makers are now drawing attention to the hazards of too much competition in children. Beyond a very limited set of benefits, too much competition results in children developing inappropriate social and moral values. When winning at any cost becomes the main concern, the individual is often beset with feelings of anger, frustration, jealousy, hate, and the like. Parents should do all they can to protect their children from these negative feelings which go on to inculcate in them development of undesirable values.
Parents, just as the school and teachers, may not always be able to do much to protect children from the competitive environment that the present education system offers. But there are other things that we can do to counter it’s harmful effects. If we cannot reduce competition among children, we can certainly increase the instances of cooperation among them. By teaching children to cooperate, they are being helped to constantly develop the values of consideration, empathy, service, compassion, respect, patience, and a host of other values that express themselves when people are required to work in harmony with others and collaborate with them. Other things that we can do to offset the ill effects of too much competition is to counsel children, appreciate them more for the effort that they put into their work and not so much for the results that they produce, and by never comparing children.
The more closely parents work with schools the more their children will be benefited by from it, resulting in improved all-round school performance. Even though schools do their best to provide children with the best possible educational training, yet parents will always continue to exert a potent influence over the lives of their children. With a little care, parents can actually add a great deal to the efficacy of the work of schools and the impact that they can have on their children.