How to Influence Children

How to Involve Parents in the Classroom

Share Positive Feedback

When interaction with their child’s school consistently conveys negative information, parents experience little incentive to become involved in the classroom. It’s not surprising that parents are likely to avoid scenarios linked to stressful outcomes. The National Education Association recommends that teachers call parents to share positive feedback related to their child’s progress. For example, “Marquez helped a new student make friends on the playground. I am so proud of him!” Sharing small successes opens larger windows of accessibility to parents who might have believed there was no reason to become involved in their child’s classroom.

Accommodate Busy Schedules

Encourage parental involvement in the classroom by acknowledging that many parents struggle with the time constraints that one or more jobs, extracurricular activities and family responsibilities place on their crowded daily agenda. For example, invite parents to eat breakfast or lunch with their child. The National Association for the Education of Young Children reports that parents are more likely to attend conferences when teachers offer a variety of scheduling options.

Enlist Support From Bilingual Parents

Immigrant parents who want to embrace classroom involvement with enthusiasm face obstacles to participating in their child’s educational journey. Parents who struggle with English might lack the self-assurance needed to ask questions and share concerns. The language barriers contribute to feelings of isolation and reticence to become involved in the classroom. However, enlisting help from a bilingual parent who supports parents in the transition to the new school setting increases the likelihood of classroom involvement. Bilingual parents also encourage parental participation by serving as interpreters at school events and translating written communication from the school.

Schedule Home Visits

Planning a home visit can reach reluctant parents who don't respond to telephone calls and more conventional forms of communication. Home visits not only provide teachers with a golden opportunity to team with the parent to collaboratively design a plan for academic success, but also permit teachers to observe the home’s influence on the child’s academic success. For some parents, a home visit can build a bridge that validates the importance of team membership, and motivate parents to travel the bridge all the way to the front door of their child’s school.

Creative Ways to Increase Parent Involvement

Counter Time Objections

According to experts at the website for PTO Today, parent objections to volunteering or participating in school-related activities are a common obstacle to building solid family involvement. A common objection is the time commitment that's typically required for volunteer activities. Instead of simply agreeing with parents when they say volunteer activities take up too much time, come up with creative solutions. Let parents know they can volunteer for activities that require less of a time commitment or their schedule can be accommodated to fit the volunteer opportunities.

Telecommute

Telecommuting isn't just for the work. If you are struggling to raise your parent participation numbers at your child's school, consider an at-home option. Some parents might want to participate in school-related activities, but don't have the time during the school day, don't have transportation or don't feel comfortable with in-school volunteering. Remedy that by giving parents the opportunity to help out from home. Ways that parents can telecommute include sending out e-mail blasts or newsletters, making posters for school events or creating a tally spreadsheet for fundraiser orders.

Include Diversity

Don't forget to consider the diverse student body in your child's school. Some parents might not participate in school activities because they don't understand the cultural significance, don't celebrate specific holidays or events that the school does, or aren't native English speakers. The experts at PTO Today suggest that schools and parent involvement groups offer multicultural events to celebrate diversity and include all of the families. Additionally, it is helpful, when recruiting participants who might not speak or read English well, to translate all written materials into other languages.

Fun Events

Counting the orders for your third-grader's candy bar fundraiser probably isn't the most fun that you had all week. Think about how other parents feel about the same types of dull involvement activities. Spice up the parent involvement program by adding a few fun-filled events to attract new participants. Before the school year starts, have a picnic at a park or have a family barbecue. During the school year, don't limit your recruitment methods to the occasional e-mail or handout letter. Have a coffee and breakfast meet-and-greet for the parents at drop-off time before the school day starts or have a potluck dinner to inform potential parent volunteers about your organization.

The Influence of Parents on the Lifelong Goals of Children

Education

Many parents remain at least somewhat involved with their child’s education in elementary school, but involvement may begin to taper off in middle school and high school as students assume more responsibility for their assignments. However, performance at these grade levels helps set the stage for college preparation. Receiving a college education, then, may become a lifetime achievement goal for children under appropriate parental influence.

Careers

The influence of parents on the lifelong goals of children also becomes apparent with regard to careers. Parents may subtly or directly encourage children to take over a family business, or remain in the same line of work as other family members. For example, a family of lawyers may expect their daughter to follow in the footsteps of her mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Conversely, families who do not view a college education or white-collar careers as a realistic option for their children may discourage related goal setting toward these objectives. Parental pressure may play a role in lifelong goals, too, according to John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. For example, children who feel pressured to meet career standards established by their parents may adjust their private goals in order to please them.

Relationships

Parents may influence a child’s lifelong goals with regard to relationships, whether this is to mirror a parent’s relationship decisions or reverse those patterns. Some children raised by a single mother may come to admire and respect this independent lifestyle, feeling suspicion or resentment about the idea of relying on a partner for support. Conversely, the same child might be aware of the difficulty in such a task and resolve to include marriage and shared parenting as a lifelong goal.

Independence

Attitudes about independence and self-efficacy can be absorbed by children after observing their parents’ attitudes toward these concepts, according to New York University. Parents may impart cultural beliefs about the value of autonomy and individual resilience to children, who may adjust lifelong goals accordingly. Other cultures may influence goals by emphasizing collectivism, family participation, and responsibility to society as a whole.

Parent & School Involvement During the Early Adolescent Years

Parent-Teacher Relationship

In their study, entitled “Parent-School Involvement in the Early Adolescent Years”, Jacquelynne S. Eccles and Rena D. Harold suggest that the fundamental issue when it comes to a child’s academic success lies in the relationship shared between the parent and the teacher. Research makes clear that this communications link is highly beneficial to children of all grade levels. Side by side with this, Eccles and Harold are clear that the level of parental involvement within school is not as high as teachers would like.

Ways to Get Involved

The U.S Department of Education has recommended that parents really try to be as involved as they possibly can be. They also published a few helpful suggestions on how to best do this. Certain “strategies” were brought to light, including learning all you can about the child’s school. Get your hands on a handbook, study what the semesters involve, talk to the teachers and get to know what your child is studying and when. Another hint involved providing a school-friendly environment at home. This might involve providing your child with a desk of his own, encouraging him to do his homework, minimize the noise in the house at certain “home study” hours.

A Child's Point of View

Professor Jianzhong Xu of the University of Mississippi in his publication entitled, “Do Early Adolescents Want Family Involvement in Their Education? Hearing Voices from Those Who Matter Most” carried out an interesting survey that involved adolescents, who rated what they deemed to be the most important aspect of parent-teacher involvement. It was revealed that 90 percent of the survey’s participants answered “very important” to setting up a personal workspace at home. On the other end of the spectrum, only 48 percent of the participants thought the setup and attendance of PTA meetings were very important.

The Root of the Problem

Of course, there is always a reason for a lack of involvement, which both parents and teachers must try to overcome. Eccles and Harold state that the primary causes of a lack of involvement for parents are lack of time, economic resources, education, knowledge and energy. Involvement can also be affected by the school in question, either through poor reporting practices or hostility or indifference toward the parents.

How Teens Feel When Parents Are Overly Involved in Their Life

Advantages of Parental Involvement

A report by the Council of Economic Advisers on "Teens and Their Parents in the 21st Century" found that teens whose parents were involved in their lives had fewer problems in many areas. Teens who reported being close with their parents and eating dinner with them frequently were less likely to drink alcohol, use drugs, be sexually active, get in fights or have suicidal thoughts. The report recommended that parents eat dinner with their teens at least five nights out of every seven to stay involved in their lives.

Helicopter Parenting

Some parents go beyond being involved and seek to rescue their kids from anything that could possibly go wrong in their lives. This trend is referred to as "helicopter parenting," as if the parents were swooping down in a helicopter to save the teenager from harm. Although helicopter parenting is often criticized, a 2012 University of Texas study found that teens whose parents offered extensive financial and emotional support did better than those whose parents did not. Teens with supportive parents were more successful at school and in their adult lives after school.

Control

The problem is not necessarily parental involvement, but parental control. A researcher named Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., categorized unhealthy parenting strategies into eight types of inappropriate control. According to Neuharth, some parents demand too much perfection from their kids. Some use emotional manipulation and are cold when displeased. Some are emotionally dependent on their own kids. Some use strict rules to try to micromanage their kids' lives. Some compete with their children, or expect their children to parent them. Some are unstable and unpredictable. Some are abusive. Even though these behaviors are all different, they all have the effect of taking away the child's power over his own life.

Effects of Inappropriate Control

According to the University of Iowa's guidebook on "Controlling Parents," teens whose parents are inappropriately controlling can suffer from poor self-esteem, depression, high levels of self-criticism and an inability to make their own decisions. They can have problems making friends, establishing healthy dating relationships and working well with others. High levels of parental involvement can help teens to do well in life, but high levels of inappropriate control can sabotage their ability to make the transition to adulthood.

The Effects of Parent Influence in Studies

Beliefs and Expectations

While parental involvement in terms of parents coming into the school to help out seems like the most likely influence on a child's studies, their beliefs on education also play a pivotal role. The Michigan Department of Education notes that parental expectations for a student's success are the most gauge when it comes to predicting achievement. Setting the expectations for high academic achievement, and instilling those beliefs in children, can help students excel in their studies.

Achievement

A positive parent influence that includes high expectations and involvement can lead to higher achievement. Scholars at the Harvard Family Research Project note that increased parental involvement produces higher grades and test scores for children. This doesn't mean every child of an involved parent will automatically get straight A's. Instead, the research into positive parental influence and student achievement demonstrates that parental involvement is a factor that increases the chances of a student doing well.

Other Effects

The research on parental involvement suggests that family influence can affect school attendance, motivation, self-esteem and a lower rate of suspension, according to the Michigan Department of Education. Increased attendance coupled with high motivation and self-esteem can lead to improved academic outcomes. Additionally, parental influence plays a role in decreasing behaviors that distract from academic excellence, including drug and alcohol use or violence against peers.

Interactions

Parental influence over a child's development and education isn't a one-way street, according to the American Psychological Association's website. As much as parents influence a child, the child also influences the parent. The parent-child dynamic is more of an interactive, rather than one-way, process. Parents and children react to one another, allowing the parent to change approaches based on the child's needs. This provides both parents and children the opportunity to invest in the student's education and become a team working toward scholastic success.