Many of us think that a large amount of parental involvement in a child’s academic career is a marker of good parenting. However, recent studies have shown that this assumption is wrong.
In a study conducted by Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris, the authors observed American families from a variety of backgrounds over the course of three decades. By examining 63 different measures of parental involvement and their effect on test scores, they were able to find that most forms of parental involvement yielded no results, regardless of race or socioeconomic background.
In fact, students who had parents who took a step back and were less involved often showed better results in their scores.
People often believe that volunteering more time at school or talking to more teachers is helpful to their children’s success. Further, the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top program sought to close the socioeconomic and racial gaps in achievement, in part, by encouraging parents to be more involved with school work.
However, the Robinson and Harris study contradicts this belief. They explain that the best thing parents can do is to express that education is valuable. “What should parents do?” write the authors. “They should set the stage and then leave it.”
It’s important to note that the study does have some limitations. First of all, it relies primarily on test scores as a measure of academic success, thus using a narrow definition of achievement. In her article analyzing the research, Dana Goldstein writes that the study did not delve into the effect that a parent’s school choices might have, nor did it address the use of a tutor or psychologist. In addition, it does not take into account the fact that involved parents are often the best advocates in schools, sometimes securing better materials and classes.
While Robinson and Harris explain that there truly is no one-size-fits-all method for parental involvement, there are certain behaviors they encourage and others they advise against. Here are some things to keep in mind when you become involved in your child’s academic life.
Talking about college plans: Research showed that across all groups, talking to kids about going to college and setting that expectation at home was beneficial to students.
Requesting teachers with good reviews for your child: Goldstein further explains that “…[the] best teachers have been shown to raise students’ lifetime earnings and to decrease the likelihood of teen pregnancy, this is no small intervention.”
Discussing the activities that your child is involved in: The Harrison and Harris study showed that talking about school activities at home can yield higher academic results.
Ask your kids what they need: Leaving an open channel of communication, in which you involve your child in your decisions to be a more active presence in her life, will allow you to not overstep.
Encouraging kids to be critical: In another study by Anette Lareau, research showed that children who were encouraged to ask critical questions and advocate for themselves at home did better in school.
Exposing your children to the value of education: Introducing your children to adults with a college education and an interesting job can allow them to see the importance of academic achievement first-hand.
The following were types of parental involvement that Robinson and Harris found to be consistently detrimental:
Observing your child in class
Meeting frequently with teachers or principals
Helping your teen choose his or her high school courses
Punishing your child for getting bad grades
Instituting strict rules about when and how to do homework
Giving children consistent homework help
Goldstein, D. (2014, March 19). Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework. The Atlantic. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from The Atlantic
Parental Involvement Is Overrated. (2014, April 12). The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from The New York Times