|Parents and Learning (IAE - IBE, 2000, 36 p.)|
Parents set standards for their children, and these standards determine what children view as important.
Studies find that children do better in school when their parents set high but realistic academic standards for them. Parents of good learners also place importance on verbal interaction; they question their children to prompt further thought and expression, they challenge them to use new words, and they expect them to speak with precision. Families with high expectations for their childrens school performance also provide consistent guidance and support for schooling. They are aware of their childrens progress and interested in the academic route their children are plotting. Researchers find that a strong work ethic contributes to success in school. Also important is a family attitude that accomplishments result from effort rather than innate ability or playing the system. Further, children benefit when their parents are attentive to their whereabouts, know their friends, monitor their televiewing, and maintain contact with their teachers.
Several exercises can be employed to help parents understand the standards and examples they are setting for their children. One exercise is to simply sketch a typical weekly schedule of the childs activities beyond the school day. When does the child usually study? Read? Play with friends? Watch television? Examining the schedule gives a clue to the relative priority the family is giving to each activity.
Parents often look to teachers for guidelines. The expectation that children spend a minimum amount of time studying and reading each day (perhaps ten minutes for each grade level) is such a guideline. The dangers of television may be exaggerated, but when children watch television more than ninety minutes a day, school performance falls off. At some point the amount of time given to television is being robbed from a more productive activity, such as reading or studying.
Parents sometimes need to be reminded that children benefit from varied activities, including recreational and social activities, and that schoolwork need not replace these activities. Studying and reading, however, should come first. Parents can help their children develop their own schedule each week, allowing them to set aside time for fun if they have first allotted adequate time for study. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for a parent is to know when a child is doing his or her best. Setting high but realistic expectations is easier said than done. When it comes to schoolwork, however, a good approach is to consider the childs study habits and attitude toward school rather than focusing solely on the childs marks. This is not to say that marks are unimportant; but marks can be deceptive. Some children achieve reasonably high marks with little effort, and fail to develop good study habits as a consequence. Other children work hard but never achieve the highest marks; they may be doing their best and their dedication to their learning deserves praise. Comparing siblings is a particular pitfall for parents.
A simple rule for parents is that they always know where their children are, what they are doing, and who they are with. Being sure to meet their childs friends and knowing the names and addresses of the friends parents is a good prerequisite for allowing a child to spend time with a peer. Regular communication with their childrens teachers is equally important.
References: Bradley, Caldwell & Elardo (1977); Gordon et al. (1979); Hess & Shipman (1965); Keeves (1975); Stevenson (1990).