The parent’s role in their child’s education is more complex than ever. Standardization has placed increasing pressure on students and the advent of social media and online learning platforms have created a vastly different educational experience for today’s kids than prior generations. It is important for parents to be involved in their child’s education so they can help them navigate this increasingly complex landscape.
What is the role of the parent in their child’s education? The parent’s role is to ensure the child’s basic needs are met every day and to help them develop the academic, social, and emotional skills necessary to succeed. Parents should nurture their ability to take on responsibility, engage with peers, work towards goals and pursue their interests.
The parent is the most influential person in the child’s life and has an unmatched power to direct and motivate. Parents who seek to support their child’s academic success should focus on whole child strategies that are considerate of where the child is in every area of their development. You and your child will benefit greatly if you have a vision for fulfilling your role in your child’s education that examines the supports that need to be in place to ensure they get the most out of their formal and informal educational experiences.
Make Sure the Basics are Covered
From the beginning, the parent’s primary role is to make sure the child’s basic needs are met. As they grow older these things are still your job, but how you go about making sure they get done should change. For example, until a child is 7 or 8 you may need to be in the bathroom with them when they brush their teeth. If they won’t do it, you will have to get in there and do it for them. It may be a hassle (I know my 3-year-old gives me a battle every night), but the benefits far outweigh the costs. You don’t want to look at your teenager suffering 10 years from now with their mouth full of cavities. You also don’t want to pay the bills to get them fixed.
21st-century life has presented parents with this decision more than ever before – pay the price now or pay a higher price later. Each time you are presented with this choice you have the power to teach your child good habits. The lessons they learn from you about responsibility, attentiveness, and care will carry over into other areas of their lives – including education.
Each day parents must have age appropriate expectations for what the child needs to do for themselves. Parents should also have a plan in place for how they will monitor whether those responsibilities are met and to the degree of quality with which it is carried out. Each morning the parent needs to ensure the child has:
- Done their Homework the Night Before
- Had a full night’s sleep
- Had a healthy breakfast
- Cared for Themselves and Maintained their Environment
- Arrived at School on Time
It’s a lot to get done every day, but the payoff is worth it in the end. The skills your child will learn as they practice doing their homework, taking a shower, getting to bed on time, making their bed in the morning, brushing their teeth, and grooming themselves in a neat and presentable manner will stay with them for life.
As a young adult, they will undoubtedly have a few days where they don’t make their bed, eat well, or care for themselves. They will intuitively know that it’s wrong because it won’t feel like the right thing to do. Something will be out of place. They will sense this because you made sure they knew how to care for themselves properly.
Remember, what you teac them today will stay with them forever. There is no place where this is more apparent than self-care, which is the first step on the path to personal responsibility.
Make the Home a Great Place to Learn
The child’s home shapes their perception of what a safe and relaxing environment should be and it is where they learn habits that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. As the parent, you decide how they will experience their home. When I think about how my kids experience our home, I break it down into two parts; physically and psychologically.
The home should be neat and clean. If your child experiences organization as they grow up it will help them appreciate its importance later in life. Everything should have a place, and that includes opportunities for learning.
Do they have a space they can call their own? If you can, make sure they do. Are their toys in the playroom educational or purely for entertainment? Make sure there is a balance of both. Do they have access to a lot of screens? Screen time should be limited and the child should not view them as a part of their daily lives.
Do they have a desk anywhere? Is it in a place where they feel comfortable learning and is free of distractions? Can they go there to just chill out and play? Make sure they have some kind of work station that they can go to do homework or play constructively.
The way the child feels about the home will be a big factor in determining how comfortable they are learning while there. The home should be a place where the child is expected to learn, and they should intuitively understand the importance of this expectation.
You won’t be able to instill a belief in education in them through words alone. It must come through action. Establish a routine where they sit down in a quiet area and study, read or work on an intellectual hobby at least 3 times a week. Make it a priority.
As you are getting your child established in their new routine make sure you are considerate of how they feel about the experience. Although you don’t want to place all of your emphasis on whether they like working and studying all the time (they won’t), you do want to try to make sure they are comfortable enough to get into their zone so they can work productively. That is the feeling that you will work to build on.
When your child is able to consistently tune in to what they are working on they will experience more success over time. Give them the opportunity to experience that success by making sure they understand what their goals are for the day. If they are working on a huge Lego set they should not be attempting to finish it each day. Help them set a smaller goal that they can work toward, so they can see how success builds upon itself. With that, confidence will follow.
Understand Your Child’s Learning Style
If you are able to understand your child strengths you will be much more likely to help them as they work through the struggles that come along with discovering themselves. There is currently no way to put everything about their learning style into a category that will help you know exactly what to do and when, but there are some helpful frameworks and ideas based on research that should assist you in developing a better understanding of how your child learns.
The most discussed framework is known as learning modalities, and there are four:
- Benefit from demonstrations
- Have well-developed imaginations
- Easily distracted by movement or action
- Use lists to stay organized
- Easily learn through descriptions
- Remember faces but forget names
- Enjoy discussion and plays
- Solve problems by talking them out
- Can be distracted by noise
- Prefer verbal instructions from the teacher
- Remember names but forget faces
- Thrive when they are active
- Learn while moving and doing (manipulatives help)
- Prefer action over watching or listening
- Struggle sitting down and concentrating
- High energy
- Enjoy hands-on activities like projects or labs
- Learn while taking notes
- Likes to draw to remember
You will probably find that your child does not fit firmly into any one of these categories, but instead favors one over the other. Almost all kids learn through each of the learning modalities, and this framework is used to determine which they favor more. Take some time to observe how your child learns now that you’ve read these over. Think about how you can modify learning at home so your child can engage in activities that are more responsive to their preferences and needs.
There is more to understanding a child’s learning style than just their modality. Learning dispositions provide another helpful framework that can be an important indicator of what they will respond to. These are the habits of mind that are built up over time. If you understand where your child is in the learning disposition framework, you can better understand how they respond to the learning process. There are five learning dispositions to consider:
- Agility and Flexibility
- Motivation and drive to learn
- Problem-Solving and Questioning
Persistent learners are willing to stick with a task and see it through completion. They won’t easily give up and will work to analyze a problem and develop a strategy to solve it. Children who learn persistence develop resilience over time through their frequent contact with intellectual adversity.
Agility and Flexibility
Learners who are agile and flexible are able to change their minds when they receive new information. They don’t get stuck in the trap of assuming things need to be the way they were originally presented. They understand how new variables being introduced to a situation can completely reshape that scenario.
Motivation and Drive to Learn
Learners who are motivated and driven are enthusiastic about and engaged in the learning process. They seek out learning experiences and are driven by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors.
Children who think about their own thinking are able to plan a strategy for producing the information that they need, are aware of their own learning process and can reflect on and evaluate the productiveness of their thinking. Metacognition is important for the motivated learner to guide themselves as they plot new courses for their own learning.
Problem-Solving and Questioning
Problem solvers are adept at asking questions so they can fill in the gaps between what they know and what they need to know. They are also able to analyze scenarios from different points of view to see other perspectives that may have an impact on the outcome of the situation.
Model Active Learning
You are your child’s most significant role model. Growing up, they will look to you first to learn the skills and traits that will make them successful in life. In few areas will this be more important than learning. Through hard work, dedication, and daily modeling you have the opportunity to instill in them a passion for learning and a willingness to put the work in necessary to be successful.
Over the years your kids will hear you tell them about the importance of learning. The degree to which they take those words seriously will be determined in large part by the action they see you taking as a learner yourself. Make reading a priority, and ensure they see it is a priority.
If your children are younger read with them every single day for at least 15 minutes (if they are really little) to a ½ hour. If they are older, try starting your own family book club so you can read stories together and share the meaning of those stories with each other.
Another great way to demonstrate to your kids that you are a lifelong learner is through the work that you do around the house. Running a household comes with a lot of responsibility, and nobody knows it all. You undoubtedly have had to look things up to figure them out at some point. Involve your kids in this process.
Perhaps the drain under your sink was clogged and you realized that it’s not that difficult to release the plug and remove the debris manually. Or, maybe have a draft coming in from the windows and want to use some silicone to seal it up. Both are great opportunities to engage them in learning and application of knowledge.
Make sure they participate in the entire process with you. If you learn and apply the information together they will understand the process behind learning information then acting on it, which is something they don’t always get in school. It’s a great way to make learning real and relevant while creating a bonding experience for the family.
This will require more patience from you and your project may not get completed the right way the first time, but if you prioritize the opportunity to connect with your child you will see the lasting benefits of reusing this strategy for years to come.
Support the Child in their Learning
Children who have parents who support their learning are more likely to succeed in school. You can help your child by modeling the interest and excitement about learning necessary to create a passion in them for learning that will stay with them for life.
Help Them Learn to be Responsible for their Own Learning
Children need to be responsible for their own learning at an early age (in an age-appropriate manner). In a lot of ways, it’s easier when they are little because they are more eager to learn and to please their parents. Use that energy wisely. Make sure they are exposed to engaging learning experiences that make them want to come back for more.
There are many places on the web that already do a great job listing out ideas and activities that you can use with your child to keep them engaged in the learning process. Here’s the one I like best.
Engage with the School You Chose
Parents who view their school of choice as partners in their child’s learning are typically more engaged in the educational process. They know that it’s the parent who is most responsible for the child’s education, not the school.
As such, they choose their child’s school carefully and closely monitor what is going on at the school to ensure the school is living up to their expectations of what should be provided to their child. If the school messes things up, they are not afraid to make a move to a new school.
Of course, that’s not the first option anyone wants to take. Once you have chosen a school that you think is a great fit for your child you want to engage them intentionally and frequently to ensure that lines of communication are open and high expectations are being met for your child.
Make sure that you receive information from your child’s teacher about their behavior and academic performance as frequently as you think will keep you well informed. Get involved with the parent-teacher association so you can be more aware of what is going on at the school.
Get to know and be friendly with the principal’s secretary (they typically know what’s going on at the school). Build relationships in the school community that get you beyond the messaging of the district and administration and to the core of what is really happening at the school.
Understand Your Child’s Intellectual Interests (Beyond School)
Schooling itself is not a goal. It is a vehicle to develop students into stronger critical thinkers so they can contribute to society meaningfully later in life. You can help them each step of the way by paying attention to what they are really interested in and give them the time to pursue those interests.
The liberal education that is provided to students in western countries is great for creating well-rounded thinkers that are versed in the arts and sciences. However, the general curriculum does not typically allow for too much deviation from prescribed standards.
So, if a child has other interests they want to pursue they don’t always have the options to do so. That’s a great opportunity for you to shape your child’s free time with hobbies instead of downtime (or screen time).
Give your child the chance to develop their interests by ensuring they have the time and resources needed to learn about their topic. Let’ say they are interested in engineering. Help them learn more by joining a local rocket club.
When they join the club they will be introduced to the concept of rocketry in a thoughtful way. Engage with them as much as you can and become part of the learning process if it is something you want to share together.
Make connections with other parents so it will be easier for your child to meet up with other kids who share their interest in rocketry. Watch them as they practice. Make sure quality learning is taking place. When it comes time to buy them their own rocket, you will be more comfortable knowing they have been taught the proper way to use it because they were taught by trained adults and practiced with proficient peers.
No matter what their interest turns out to be, it will be important for you to support with the time, resources, and encouragement they need to progress through the learning process. Your involvement can be a great addition to ensuring they succeed.
They don’t have to be the next great engineer, they just have to stick with it long enough to figure out if it really is something they want to pursue. Once they have given it the time it deserves, they can choose to stick with it or move on to something else.
Turn Off Devices
I write frequently about this topic. Avoid devices as much as possible. In my home, they are not permitted (including T.V.) during the week and we try to avoid them as much as possible on the weekends. When we do allow the T.V. to be on, we try to ensure the kids are watching something that has a legitimate storyline and plot.
Tablets and phones are avoided as much as possible as well. Devices create a distraction for kids with little to show for their time. They are one of those things that you probably want to put off for as long as possible and then minimize time exposed when you finally have to give in and purchase your child one of their own.
It’s important to remember that the parent is the primary driver behind the child’s education, not the school. If a child has a strong parent who is engaged throughout the learning process they will rely less on other role models for learning.
That’s important in a day and age where U.S. schools are still performing below international standards. It’s up to you to ensure they get what they can from the education system and they get the rest of what they need from somewhere else. Where that is will be up to you.
It will probably be a combination of strategies that will help you find success. Remember that this is a marathon. Make your connection with your child the priority above everything thing else that goes into parenting and you will have a solid foundation for success.
Why is it Important for Parents to be Involved in Their Child’s Education?
Parents who are involved in their child’s education are more likely to have kids who develop socially, academically, and behaviorally in a healthy way. Children with involved parents benefit from lower drop-out rates, higher grades, better social skills and greater engagement in all that schools have to offer. As a result, they are more likely to enroll in and complete college, setting them up for their career of choice.
How Do I Help My Child Find Their Passion?
Make sure you are frequently introducing them to new things. When something sticks, write it down. Continue this process, noting their interests along the way. As you compile a list of their interests you can work with your child to decide which ones they will pursue. Give them the freedom and support they need to explore each one. For the most part it should be driven by the child’s desire, but remember every kid needs a nudge once in a while.