Parenting in Schools

An Overview of Parenting in Schools

Parenting in schools may seem like a strange concept, considering you—as a parent—are not with your child during the school day. Being involved in your child's education doesn't mean being by their side during class, but rather participating in and supporting their journey from grade to grade.

Educational research has consistently shown that parents being involved in their children's K-12 education is a strong factor for children to be successful in school.

 Involved parents take on a partnership role with their child's school, rather than viewing the school as being an independent authority in charge of educating children.

Each child and family is unique. While there may not be a one-size-fits all protocol for leading children to academic success, there are a variety of ways that parents can get involved and effectively support their children's education.

In general, parents who are successful at supporting their children in school do so by:

  • Expressing high expectations for their children's learning and behavior at school
  • Creating a home environment that supports learning
  • Communicating with teachers and school staff and participating in school activities

6 Things to Know About Parenting in Schools

Parental involvement has been shown to bring significant benefit to children in all age, race, and economic groups. The United States is a very diverse nation. This can sometimes create challenges in finding the most effective ways to reach a group of school students.

Still, each group of children shows a significant benefit when the child's parents are involved in their child's school education.

Children and teens with highly involved parents enjoy several benefits. Involvement has been shown to increase grades, leads to more consistent homework completion, improve student behavior at school, increase high school graduation rates, reduce school drop-out rates, increase college attendance, and lower rates of experimentation with tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs.

Parental expectations have the largest impact on academic achievement. When your child knows that you value education, your child will learn to value education as well. 

A positive attitude that offers reinforcement and encourages a growth mindset is more effective than a negative, punitive approach. Children who are encouraged to do well in school and in academics feel good about school and are more likely to put in the effort to be successful. This includes praising children for working hard on their school work.

Learning is about gaining knowledge and skills. It takes perseverance to go from not understanding a topic to studying and answering questions to mastering the subject. Focus on praising learning itself, rather than being naturally smart. The idea is to focus on rewarding the learning process.

Parents should also avoid focusing on negative outcomes and punishments. Rather than telling your children "Never, ever skip school," try praise for good attendance and participation at school. If children and teens are only told what not to do and receive punishments for not complying, they will develop a negative attitude about learning and school.

School administrators and teachers strive to develop relationships with parents and get them involved at the school. School staff and professionals know about the benefits to children's educational outcomes. Teachers themselves also experience greater support and understanding from parents who are involved at school.

Parents are also more likely to advocate politically for school support when they are familiar with how the school operates and what the needs of the local school are.

 

If you ever wondered if you are welcome at your child's school, the answer is a resounding yes.

Teachers can be more effective with students when the teachers have a relationship with the family. Meeting parents and other family members provides greater insight into a child's background and learning experience. This can help teachers better relate to your child's experience, and even develop lessons that will be more engaging to your child.

A better relationship with parents also makes it easier for a teacher to contact a parent about any concerns that may develop, or to share positive information he or she may have about your child. Teachers know that working with parents helps to create a team-like atmosphere for the child where learning will be reinforced at home.

Ways You Can Get Involved in Your Child's Education

Parents have many different options available to get involved with their children's schools. Below you will find an adaptation of the six broad categories of parental involvement identified by Joyce Epstein, PhD, of John Hopkins University:

  1. Parenting: Effectively parenting a child helps to ensure that a child develops the necessary skills and has the resources to succeed in and out of school. Parents can develop their parenting skills by learning about child development. Workshops or parenting classes can help with this. Many schools now offer parenting education events as well. Parents can also learn more by reading books, reputable magazines, or exploring trusted websites such as Verywell.
     
  2. Communicating: Effectively communicating with the school and teachers is critical to parent involvement. This is how parents find out what is going on in their child's academic life. Attending back-to-school socials and parent-teacher conferences can help establish good communication. Find out if your child's school has an online grade book for parents to view, and the teacher's preferred methods of sharing information (email, phone, etc.)
     
  3. Volunteering: Schools need a lot of support to run efficiently. This creates a variety of volunteer opportunities for parents. No matter what your skills or background, your child's school can use your help in some way. If you are only able to offer a small amount of volunteer time, it will still benefit the school and your child, as this time adds up. Your child will see you taking your time to support their schooling, and that will model to them the importance of school success.
     
  4. Learning at Home: Parents can extend learning into the home environment in several different ways, such as providing homework help. You can provide age- and reading-level appropriate books in a variety of topics to encourage reading. Take advantage of daily activities such as cooking, which uses math skills such as measuring and fractions. 
     
  5. Decision Making: Parents can take part in the decisions made at the school and in the school system. This may range form being involved with the PTA/PTO or school site council. School administrators are aware of the importance of involving the local school community—especially parents—in creating effective school policy. By involving parents in the decision-making process, local family needs are better understood. Policies are also better supported and followed when parents have a role in creating them.
     
  6. Collaborating With Community: Schools benefit when utilizing the local resources available to them. Parents are clear members of the local community. Many parents have further connections that they can link back into the school. For example, parents may work for a company that can offer support to a school by sponsoring activities. Potential experts and mentors for the school may be parents, relatives, or co-workers of parents. 

You do not have to do all six of these all of the time. Some of the activities, such as parenting and communicating, are ways that parents are involved throughout the time their children are in school. Other activities, such as volunteering and decision making, are activities that parents may or may not do. Parents may also be involved with an activity for a length of time and not be involved in that particular way at other times.

The Daily Life of a Family With School Children

The activities that have the greatest impact on academic and future success have a high, long-term time investment to them. That sounds like work, but most parents see this as a pleasure and honor, rather than a burden. Activities like regularly reading to your children, taking time to talk with them about their school day and interests, and having an effective parental style are shown to have greater impact than demonstrative activities, like parental attendance at school functions or having a set of household rules, according to a meta-analysis of parent involvement research by the Harvard Family Research Project.

What this suggests is that effective parenting for school success is about developing a quality parent-child relationship that communicates the value of education and provides the child with resources to succeed. 

A Word From Verywell

You hold a very special role in the life of your child. You have the greatest influence out of anyone on his or her development. You know your child better than anyone else and are uniquely suited to give your child the support he or she needs to be successful, and to advocate for his or her needs as you see fit. While the school environment may seem overwhelming and complex at times, teachers and schools also exist to help your child learn the skills they will need for their futures.

Sources:

Henderson, Anne T., Mapp, Karen L. A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. Rep. Austin: SEDL, 2002. Print.

"Parental Involvement and Student Achievement: A Meta-Analysis–Harvard Family Research Project." N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Aug 2016.

"Parenting Involvement | SDSU." California Parent Center, n.d. Web. 31 Aug 2016. 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Parent Engagement: Strategies for Involving Parents in School Health. Atlanta: n.p., 2012. Print.

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