Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How To Be an Involved Parent

By now, we’ve all heard it: Children with involved parents are more likely to succeed academically. Parental involvement is purported to affect a whole range of areas including behavior problems, math and science achievement, school preparedness, graduation, and more.

But here’s what it all boils down to: If you are an involved parent, your children (and their teachers!) quickly learn that your family values education. Before you know it, your kids will have the same outlook and will view their education as a way to pursue and achieve their dreams.

No child wants to be a failure. But they quickly learn to live up – or down! – to the expectations of those around them. So it is our job as parents, to have high expectations, and then to help our children meet them.

But how do we do that exactly?

Here are some ideas for getting involved in your child’s education.

Ask Questions

Find out what your child is learning in school. Don’t wait for the parent-teacher conferences. Ask your child every day what he learned. Or ask his teacher. You have to be proactive and find out for yourself. When your daughter sits down to work on her homework, ask if she needs help. If she says “no,” then let her know that you’re available if she needs you.

But what if you don’t know the answer? Admit it up front. Then figure it out together. There is no better way to understand a subject than if you have to teach it to someone else.

Listen Carefully

Sometimes your child just needs a sympathetic ear. There’s so much going on in school, they are bound to have moments when they are frustrated, sad, or angry about a teacher, subject, or even their classmates. But listen carefully. Sometimes you’ll discover that it is more what your child hasn’t said that tells the story.

And once you've listened, find a way to support their emotional needs. Simply being there as an understanding and non-judgmental listener helps to solidify the bond you have with your child and leads to a better relationship.

Investigate Opportunities

If you discover your daughter is studying Ancient Egypt, call up your local museums and find out if they have any exhibits on the subject. Or hop on over to your local library/bookshop and load up on books exploring pyramids, mummies, and King Tut. You can also go online (look at PBS, NOVA, and other educational sites) to find videos on whatever your child is studying.

Invest in Books

Are you a bibliophile, like me, who cannot walk past a bookstore without going in and buying something? Guess what? You now have an excuse to give your spouse! Last year, the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility published the results of a study which showed that the number of books in the house directly correlates to the number of years of schooling that a child will complete.

And the more books in your home, the greater your child’s chances are of graduating not just from high school, but college, as well! In fact, children with as few as 25 books in their homes, completed on average two more years of schooling than those children without books.

But the incredible thing is that households with 500 books (or more!) were “as great an advantage as having university-educated rather than unschooled parents, and twice the advantage of having a professional rather than an unskilled father.”

So it’s true: The more books in your home, the greater the chances of your child’s academic achievement. You can read more about this fascinating study - and others - in this article by Laura Miller.

Teach Time Management
Let's face it: your son/daughter is a child. They aren't born knowing how to manage their time. But you can help guide them so that they can learn how to manage it effectively so that they can successfully accomplish their goals. Help them set realistic time frames for finishing homework, attending extra-curricular events, and time to just play and relax. Remember to use TV time wisely and don't let your kids be vegetables!
Take the time to get to know your child's teachers and friends. And there's no better way, than by volunteering in their classroom. This is easier to do with younger children (just imagine your teenager's angst when you show up for their science lab!) and their teachers who are often looking for an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands in the class. 
Con mucho cariño...


  1. Wonderful tips! My parents don't speak English so I was on my own with homework and the like but any opportunity to help out with something where language wasn't a barrier, they jumped right in. So very important to have parent involvement!

  2. Amazing tips! I agree with Carla, English wasn't my parents first language but that didn't lessen the involvement. They were there for us all through our school years, sure my sister or I may have had to translate at time but they still knew what was going on and were there cheering us on! :)It has made all the difference.

  3. Great post with helpful tips! I grew up with bilingual parents but it was always my mother to help us with our homework. My dad worked (and didn't have much education) so it was harder for him to work with us. But both my parents took us to museums, plays and even to the opera while we were growing up. They gave us cultural experiences that I value. I also grew up with a lot of books - not because my parents were big on reading. But because my dad used to work at a book factory and would bring us books. For a man who never read a book, he was the one who inspired my passion for literature.

  4. Awesome post, amiga! :) My grandparents couldn't help much with my homework, but that didn't stop my abuelita from picking up the phone and calling the school to have the teacher give me extra help after school.

    When it comes to my kids' homework, I dedicate the afternoon to helping them. Even if I don't always understand it. Working together we figure it out. :)

  5. You all are so fortunate to have had caring, involved parents/grandparents. I know you'll agree that it doesn't matter that they didn't understand the language. Simply being there to help in any way shows the value they placed on education.

    Leslie, I love that you work it out together. That's exactly what our children need.

  6. Awesome Post! My mom was always involved in my upbringing. Her expectations were demanding. They still are.


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