Parents can make a difference in their children’s success
As the new school year begins, one of the biggest questions for parents is “how can I help my child succeed?” People for Education, in a project that looked at thirty years of parent involvement research, identified four key things that parents can do to support their children. These four things not only support students’ academic success – they also support the development of the key competencies they need for success in school and in life. And, it can be done at home!
Competencies can be taught and learned
When students graduate, they will be faced with many challenges beyond the application of mathematics, reading, and writing abilities. Developing competencies in areas such as citizenship, health, creativity, and social-emotional learning is just as important to lifelong success as mastering multiplication or learning about essay structure.
Some people believe that these competencies are qualities that people are just “born with”, but that is not the case. They can be taught, learned, and practiced throughout life. If students are given opportunities to develop and hone these skills, they will be able to apply them in school, work, and life.
Four tips for parents
Here are four things parents can do to support their children’s development, both academically, and in these vital areas of learning.
1) Have high (but reasonable) expectations
One of the key factors in a quality learning environment, both at school and in the home, is the expectation of success. When parents consistently communicate their belief in their children’s potential, students do better. This support can help students explore initial ideas more deeply, and challenge assumptions – two competencies that contribute to a student’s ability to think critically and creatively.
2) Talk about school
Talking about school activities and programs helps to engage students in their own learning, and shows that their parents are interested in their education. A study of over 25,000 grade 8 students in the US found that talking to children has a bigger impact than limiting TV time or restricting how often children go out during the week.
Talking about school not only communicates your interest in school, it can also support social-emotional learning. Questions like “When were you happiest today?” or “Was there any part of today that you thought was boring?” can help children identify their emotions and understand why they feel the way they do, two competencies that support self-awareness, an aspect of social-emotional learning. Asking questions like “Who is the funniest person in your class?” or “Was anyone in your class annoyed today?” can help children identify emotional cues and respond constructively to the mood of others. These are competencies in social awareness, another aspect of social-emotional learning.
3) Help students develop a positive attitude towards learning and good work habits
As children get older, many of the factors that directly influence achievement are out of a parent’s control. However, parents can still support their children by helping to shape their attitudes towards school and their work habits.
Parents can support persistence by praising effort rather than achievement, so that the importance of trying your best is communicated. Some of the competencies integral to developing creativity, such as exploring complex ideas, defending your own solutions, and breaking conventions, are related to persistence.
Parents can also help their children by helping them to develop good work habits and routines. Being able to make healthy choices about eating and sleeping are vital competencies in the health domain. Being able to develop personalized learning strategies, monitor academic goals, and respond constructively to factors that have an impact on learning, are all competencies that contribute to self-management, an aspect of social-emotional learning.
4) Read together (in any language)
Reading is foundational to education, and parents can make a difference by reading and talking about books and stories with their children. While the letter-sound correspondence that children learn at school is vital, the motivation, comprehension, and oral language skills children develop through reading and discussing stories with their parents creates the foundation for successful literacy.
According to research, reading and talking in a child’s home language builds comprehension and motivation just as effectively as reading and talking in the language of school. In order to develop skills such as the development of a voice, it is critical that young people not only know how to read, but how to comprehend texts. Reading with children can also help them understand aspects of other people’s identities, articulate a personal position, and understand how perspectives can change over time. All of these are key competencies in the domain of citizenship.
All parents want what is best for their children. By doing these four things, parents can support their children’s success, both in school and in life beyond the classroom.
Learn more about the competencies.
Learn more about how parents can help their children succeed at school.
Watch the video.