Did you know that research indicates parental involvement in a child’s education increases their chance of success in school? This does not mean that you have to be involved with your child’s school – although that is always to be desired. Some research even states that when parents support their child’s learning in the home can increase a child’s chance of success by 80%!
I wanted to know why parents made such a difference to a child’s success in school. What I found was that parents have an enormous influence on how children learn. Here are five reasons, presented in no particular order, why you influence your child’s learning.
1. Children learn from people they love
There is a large emotional component to learning, especially for young children who are often more concerned with immediate situations than with eventual outcomes. Children learn best when they feel secure and respected and this happens when they are with people they love. Your child loves you, that fact alone ensures that you have an influence on their learning.
Have you noticed that your child is more ready to learn from a teacher she likes than from a teacher she does not care for? The teaching may be of the same quality but it is the emotional component that makes the difference.
2. Your child tries to please you
All children want their parents to like them. Sometimes they behave as though this is not the case, but in reality they care very much. It is because they want you to like them that you have such an important influence on their learning behavior. They will try to do the things that you want them to do (OK, this might not work with teenagers!). In this way you are shaping your child’s attitudes and learning behavior.
3. Your child tries to be like you
Every young child thinks that their parents are perfect! As a result they will copy your actions and try to do what you do. I recently heard this story which is a wonderful example of how this happens.
My friend was babysitting her young grandson and was about to take him for a walk. As she sat on the stairs to help him put his shoes on she let out a big sigh (knees can hurt as you get older!). As her grandson sat beside her he too let out a big sigh, even though his knees were not hurting him! He was trying to be like his grandma.
You need to be aware that you are constantly acting as a role model for your child. Your child believes that whatever you do is the right thing. (Parenting is the hardest job in the world!). By modeling good behavior you influence your child’s behavior and by modeling good learning habits you influence your child’s learning.
4. You are your child’s first teacher
You must have heard this before. It is used like a mantra in parent/teacher meetings. It is usually taken to mean that you teach your child a lot before he or she enters school. As parents you teach your child to walk, talk, socialize, and maybe even to read before they ever get to the door of a school. This makes you an important influence on your child’s learning.
5. You have a special role to play
However, my research indicates that, while helping your child develop the the skills listed in #4 is important, you have an even more important role to play in helping your children learn. You help your child learn how to learn. By this I mean that you help your child develop the skills they need to benefit from the teaching they will receive in school.
Let me explain. Just as you needed to learn how to drive a car your child needs to learn how to make use of the information and knowledge that comes his way. Learning just does not happen, children have to know how to learn. They need to develop certain learning to learn skills, skills such as how to use their memory to help them do their work, how to cooperate with others so that project work can get finished, how to listen and understand what the teacher is telling them.
The good news is that most children learn these skills by watching you do and trying to do what you do (see #1,2. and 3 above). In this way they pick up many of the skills you use to help you through the day. It happens automatically whenever you interact with your child – another reason for spending quality time with your child.
The bad news is that because it happens automatically parents often do not make a point of making sure that their child learns all the skills he or she needs. This means that some children enter school missing some of the skills they need to become good learners and this can lead to learning difficulties for the child.
You influence your child’s ability to learn by ensuring that he or she has the learning skills needed to benefit from schooling.
I think that both parents and teachers agree that parental involvement in a child’s learning is important. These five reasons indicate why.