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A Child's No. 1 Need: 'Engaged' Parents


Q. What is it about parents of kids who are academically successful? Are the parents well-educated themselves? Or rich? Or do they nag their kids to do their homework more than most parents? What's the "competitive edge"?

Parental educational attainment and adequate family income are both associated with school success for children. More specific behaviors by parents, such as volunteering in the classroom and helping with homework, are very important components of good parental involvement in education. But they're not the most important one.


The crucial advantage for academically successful children is parental engagement. It has to do with investing your attention and efforts into furthering your child's education, and usually involves things that you do both at home and at school.


This form of engagement has nothing to do with marriage or a diamond ring. It has nothing to do with parental education or income. It's a matter of parental attitude. It has to do with structuring your home and your relationship with your child so that your child is engaged in school:


   motivated to learn


   enthusiastic about school


   good work ethic


   high but achievable goals and self-expectations


   responsible in his or her interactions and citizenship, with adults, their peers and the broader community.


"Disengagement" with school is strongly related to other problems, and it is tending to happen at an earlier and earlier age. How many adolescents do you know who are no longer engaged in learning? The news and the statistics show us the consequences: drug and alcohol use, skipping school, tardiness, bad attitude, detentions, delinquency, depression, premarital sex, and other ills that reduce each child's success and future prospects.


However, there are certain things that good parents do that create students who are engaged in their own learning. It happens because those parents are engaged in that student's life. Examples:

   Both on purpose and unintentionally, just by what they say and do, engaged parents let their child know that school and learning are very important.


   They show respect for, and value in, school by their level of involvement: volunteering, getting to know the teacher, participating in parent-teacher conferences, attending school functions, helping with their child's homework, and so on.


   Their homes are neither too permissive, nor too controlling. The grownups are in charge. Rules, and the consequences for breaking them, are clear, reasonable and consistent. Neatness and order count, but there is creativity and fun, too. The style of parenting is warm, encouraging, firm, and accepting of individual differences. The communication is characterized by guidance and instruction, not yelling and screaming, nor silence, nor silliness. Engaged parents are dedicated to creating a child who has good self-control, has lots of life skills as well as learning skills, has good character, is socially responsible, and is on the way toward independence.


Homework: See the book by Laurence Steinberg, Beyond the Classroom.


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 03 2008



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