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Parenting and Parental Involvement

From better grades and behaviors to higher graduation rates and better social skills, research clearly indicates that children who have involved parents do better in every aspect of their lives. Even though active involvement in children’s lives takes a great deal of time, energy and effort it seems it is well worth it when you look at the investment we are making in our children and their future.
Why does parent involvement matter?
According to research compiled by Dr. John H. Wherry, President of The Parent Institute, concerning parent involvement, studies find that students with involved parents are more likely to:
  • earn higher grades and test scores,
  • pass their classes, earn credits and be promoted,
  • attend school regularly,
  • have better social skills,
  • show good behavior and adapt well to school,
  • graduate and go on to further education
When schools work together with families to support learning, children tend to succeed not just in school, but throughout life. In fact, 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; and
  • Become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.
When parents are involved in their children’s education at home, their children do better in school. When parents are involved at school, their children go farther in school, and the schools they go to are better.
The [tag-cat]family[/tag-cat] provides the child’s primary educational environment.Parent involvement is most effective when it is comprehensive, long-lasting, and well-planned.Involving parents in their own children’s education at home is not enough. To ensure the quality of schools as institutions serving the community, parents must be involved at all levels in the school.
The more parents participate in schooling, in a sustained way, at every level—in advocacy, decision-making and oversight roles, as fund-raisers and boosters, as volunteers and paraprofessionals, and as home teachers—the better for student achievement.
Can a parent be too involved?
In recent years, colleges have complained about parents hovering over their children. Instead of helping their children learn to work out problems with roommates, professors, money, etc. these parents jump in and want to solve the problem for them. While the temptation is often great to want to “fix it,” we are not teaching our children how to be accountable and responsible and to problem solve if we do it for them.
The same thing applies when they are young and come through the door with a school project. If parents do the project for the child, this is not helpful parent involvement. Ultimately, this could actually be hurtful to your child as he/she is learning what it is going to take to make it in the real world.
The goal is to be present and engaged without smothering or stifling, which can be tricky. One teenager, irritated at his mother said, “You’re all up in my business.” Fortunately, this did not deter her from staying engaged. She was doing what an involved parent should be doing even though his interpretation was that she was going overboard.
It is critical for parents to remember that young people are just that, young people, with young minds. Their working knowledge about life is miniscule compared to yours. That is why they have you to help guide them as they learn about life. Backing off from this engagement could be detrimental.
Rules of engagement
Researcher, Joyce Epstein has identified multiple ways for parents to be engaged in the lives of their children including:
  • Provide a supportive home environment;
  • Keep the lines of communication open between home and school;
  • Volunteer at school;
  • Be involved in your child’s learning at home and at school; and
  • Be involved in decisions that are made regarding your child.
As your child grows older, it may be tempting to back off since they don’t seem to need you as much. Experts will tell you, adolescents need you as much as younger children. When parents are involved in middle school and high school, students have better grades, higher graduations rates and more admissions into college.
What are the Benefits?
From better grades and behaviors to higher graduation rates and better social skills, research clearly indicates that children who have involved parents do better in every aspect of their lives. Even though active involvement in children’s lives takes a great deal of time, energy and effort it seems it is well worth it when you look at the investment we are making in our children and their future.
Julie Baumgardner is the Executive Director of First Things First, an organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and families through education, collaboration and mobilization. She can be reached at julieb@firstthings.org.

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