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Parents as Partners in Educational Success

April, 2009
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  Parent - teacher conferences often end with, “What can I do to help my child”. Most parents really care about their children’s education and want to help them but many don’t know how.

  When most of today’s parents were in school the goals were to be good citizens and graduates who could find jobs. Today the goal is on developing the potential of the student to be all s/he can be. So many parents can’t understand what is going on in school. Even if a parent shared the goals of the school, many lack the knowledge and skills to tutor the math or advise on writing a creative essay. Tutors can help but they are not a replacement for parental involvement. So what can parents do to help their children get the most out of their education?

  The fact that the parents take the time to come and meet their children’s teachers is an excellent first step in showing their children that they care about what is happening in school. Parents are the single most important factor in a child’s education. İt starts when the child is a baby and continues as the parent models adulthood and children move into their adolescent years. Many parents are relieved when the child reaches school age as they feel the burden of the child’s education has now shifted to professionals and the parents can focus on work or other pursuits. However statistics show that parental involvement in their child’s continuing education raises performance levels. It requires establishing and managing a partnership for success with the child, the whole family and the school. This takes time, patience, discipline and creative packaging - but you don’t have to be an academic genius!

   To establish a relationship with anyone takes time. This also applies to relationships between parents and their ever-developing children. The goal is to create a partenership in which the child sees the parent as a source of support and not as a policeman.The amount of time involved in working with the child depends on the nature of the child and their grade level. Some children are quite comfortable working alone and can get the task done. However, the majority need and want help. Starting at preschool and up into early adolecence children require a parent to help them choose books, videos and television programs. Reading to children frequently and regularly expands their vocabulary and knowledge, gives that child an early affection for books and therefore a head start in literacy.

   Children also need an interested sounding board with whom they can reflect and express their opinions. You may already know that Sam eats the ham but be patient. Focus on the process not the content. They don’t have to get it all. Just let your child talk and be sure s/he learns to listen. Ask questions. Don’t always correct or add to their answers. The more the child feels his opinions are valued, the more you will learn about who your child is. You are mixing the cement of trust that will help you maintain your bond with your child as they go through the centrifugal years of adolecence. Model appropriate communication skills and step-by-step idea processing, but don’t sacrifice the spontaneity of a good conversation. Humor and cookies help to make these moments special. But yes, it all takes time.IMG_1069

  Discipline is definitly not a buzz word today. However it is recognized as a key factor in achieving success. It is a learned attitude that  manifests itself through skills. The most important of these is self-management and it is the parents’ responsibility as a mentor to train the child in this skill. The early years of a child’s life is not too early to start encouraging responsibility for what one does with his/her time and belongings. Parents can help their child develop self- management skills by establishing a family routine which gives all members a sense of order, security and responsibility.

   Studies show that parents who create and maintain family routines foster successful students. The child knows mom comes back from work at 6 PM, the family eats and the children do the dishes and then their homework. When it is done they are free. Creating the routine should be a cooperative activity. Negotiate it with your child. Do they need to blow off steam and run when they get home? Some need naps, others quiet time, others want to get their homework out of the way. What works for you as the parent? Working with your child helps them to realize that parents are not evil dictators and the child is not the victim. Making it a habit requires consistency and discipline. Allow for reasonable flexibility and once the routine becomes established, enforcement will seldom be a problem. The family will be working together managing time to ensure the necessary tasks gets done without the daily battles and whining negotiations. It may be tough going in the beginning and you may sacrifice a bit of harmony in the house in the short term but the benefits over the years for the family will repay a thousand fold and the child will have a life skill that will help them achieve their goals in school and beyond.

   Discipline from parents is also required to monitor television and computer usage. Academic achievement drops sharply for children who watch more than 10 hours of television a week, or an average of more than two hours a day. This is also true of entertainment time on the computer and cell phone. When your child says “you are mean” or “all the other kids’ parents let them do it”… don’t buy it. If you err, better to do it on the side of discipline than because you are afraid of losing your child’s love. You won’t, as long as your child knows you are doing what you believe is best for them. Don’t succumb to blackmail! There is no end to it.

   Help your child by finding ways to make homework engaging. When Tom Sawyer convinced the boys it was fun painting the fence he creatively repackaged drudgery into opportunity. Like any good manager, a parent can influence their child’s attitude towards the task to be completed. Students have a lot more leeway now in choosing how they will demonstrate they are mastering a subject. Investing a bit more time to find a project that engages the student and from which s/he can see the benefit will vastly increase his/her commitment to the project and this will be reflected in their level of learning and their grades.

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   Other important elements that raise the desire of the student to succeed are a positive relationship with their teacher and the levels of academic commitment of peers and the school. Parents who maintain a close and positive relationship with the teacher and school will be attuned to their level of commitment to excellence. Assess what you as an individual can bring to your children’s classes and volunteer your services. Read to the younger children, offer to take the social studies or science class through your work place, and participate in cultural events and in parent committees. Listen, try to mix with other nationalities and don’t gossip. A positive attitude by teachers and administrators towards you will reap benefits for your child and give you early warning of potential areas of concern. Your child will know you know what the real score is at school and see that you care.

   Lastly, as a parent maintain a proper perspective on success in school. You will help your child much more if you contribute to your child’s sense of self worth and physical health rather than constantly exerting pressure for academic success and not catering to his/her other needs. Be sure your child gets enough sleep, exercise and non-academic experiences daily. Build these into the family routine. You are helping your child the most by creating an environment where your child feels safe, loved and where s/he is encouraged to explore. To help them succeed parents must even let them fail sometimes.

   If you don’t have the patience or interest to help your child in school, don’t feel guilty about it. Not everyone has these qualities. If you lack patience at homework time then it is best to stay away. Find other ways to show your child you care and want them to be happy and successful. Children, children, especially the younger ones, value your time playing with them more than anything else. By being a partner in play you learn about your child’s world and they learn your values and skills. What better way to participate in your child’s education?

   Here are a few of the many websites you may want to refer to.

www.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/hyc.html

www.urbanext.illinois.edu/succeed/05-studyhabits.html

www.teachersandfamilies.com/open/parent/studyskills2.cfm

www.apa.org/releases/immigrants1108.html

www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/betterschool.html

 

 

By Sebastian Alexander

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