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close this bookParents and Learning (IAE - IBE, 2000, 36 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Academy of Education - IAE
View the documentSeries preface
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. The curriculum of the home
View the document2. The parent/child relationship
View the document3. The routine of family life
View the document4. Family expectations and supervision
View the document5. Homework
View the document6. School/home communication
View the document7. Parental involvement
View the document8. Parent education
View the document9. Family/school relationships
View the document10. Families and communities
View the documentReferences
View the documentBack Cover

2. The parent/child relationship

Children benefit from a parent/child relationship that is verbally rich and emotionally supportive.

Research findings

Language development begins at birth and centres on the child’s interactions with his or her parents. Several parent/child interactions are important in preparing the child to learn in school: talking to the infant, listening attentively to the child, reading to children and listening to them read, talking about what the parent and the child are reading, storytelling, daily conversation and letter writing. It is difficult to separate verbal interactions from the emotional and affective bonds that accompany them. For that reason, the parents’ expressions of affection are included with verbal activities as essential to the parent/child relationship. Also important is a constant demonstration by parents that learning is a natural part of life - joyful in its own right, part of the family experience, and especially exhilarating when encountered through discovery at such places as museums, zoos and historical sites.


Do not all families talk about everyday events? Perhaps, but there is great variation in the quality and quantity of that interaction. Is the underlying tone of the conversation positive, supportive? Does the conversation flow in both directions - between parent and child? Do both parties listen as well as speak? As children grow older, the time spent in conversation with parents may decline. Daily touchstone routines, such as a relaxed dinnertime, provide continued opportunity for family conversation.

A consistent emotional bond between parent and child, seen in expressions of affection, renders the child more psy- chologically equipped to meet the stresses and challenges of life outside the home, especially in school. Affection is also a social lubricant for the family, cementing relationships and helping children develop positive attitudes about school and learning.

When families talk about books, newspapers, magazines and television programmes, children’s minds are treated to the delight of verbal inquiry. The drama of unfolding events and the clash of differing opinions open doors to intellectual pursuit for children. Curiosity is kept alive. Stimulating the child’s desire to discover, to think through new situations and to vigorously exchange opinions, is fostered also by family visits to libraries, museums, zoos, historical sites and cultural events.

Vocabulary is the building block of thought and expression. All small children love to try new words. In some families, exploration with words is encouraged; in fact, it is an ongoing source of family pleasure. But some children are exposed to ridicule when they mispronounce or misuse a new word; their love for words may be extinguished, and they may feel constrained to cling to a limited vocabulary.

Parents can be taught, through role-playing techniques, to be good listeners with their children, to extend meagre daily dialogue into rich family conversation, and to play word games that promote an interest in vocabulary. They can also be encouraged to visit museums and other stimulating places and to engage their children in the excitement of discovery. Parents can even learn the importance of affectionate contact with their children, especially at times when the child may be fearful or anxious - when leaving the home in the morning and when going to sleep at night, for example.

Busy families can fall out of the habit of daily conversation. Asking parents to spend at least one minute each day in private conversation with each child, primarily listening to the child tell about his or her day without distraction from other family members or television, will demonstrate how rare and precious such moments can be. Sharing these experiences with other parents, in small-group settings, amplifies their impact.

References: Becher (1984); Kellaghan et al. (1993); Rutter (1990).