As a seasoned educator, I cannot say enough about the importance of parental involvement in a child’s overall academic achievement.
My professional opinion about parental involvement extends beyond the research and is based on my personal experiences as an educator. I emphatically believe that parental involvement is critical and that children require nurturing from pre-birth through young adulthood. Moreover, I also believe that when parents refuse to be advocates for their child’s educational path, it can affect the child’s future negatively. Parents who are uninvolved may ultimately cause a child’s skills in the fundamental areas of reading, writing, mathematics, and oratory to remain underdeveloped.
A Parent’s Responsibility
Although providing a child with constant support is a challenging task, parents and other adults must remember that most of America’s kids really do want to succeed. Children need guidance from adults, and in my view, anything less than great encouragement should be considered child neglect — and any form of neglect should be considered a criminal offense.
Many would ask why I take such a firm stance. I wholeheartedly stand by this argument because most children do not have the tools or experience to advocate for themselves.
That said, as a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation reminds us, children’s academic achievement begins to decline by the third grade if educators don’t maintain a constant review of previously learned skills and knowledge, as well as introduce new and challenging content. In fact, this is the grade level that many politicians and advocates use to project the percentage of people who will be incarcerated by their eighteenth birthday.
I believe that educators, civic leaders, ministers, and other public figures must stop playing games with parents, and rather hold them accountable for ensuring that their children receive a good education. It’s time to arrest, withhold paychecks, suspend driver's licenses, impose fines, and revoke tax refunds from parents who do not take responsibility for providing their children with an education.
If we continue down this path of indifference, America’s communities face the possibility of creating an uneducated society. By contrast, when communities invest in the next generation’s education, crime rates go down, property values go up, and career options expand. This occurs because members of the community attain the skills and qualifications to become contributors.
Typically, a lack of parental involvement is justified by a barrage of excuses from parents claiming life challenges or referring to the school or district as the sole responsible party for educating their child. Parents need to remember that it takes a village to raise a child.
Parents must become involved with their child’s school because invaluable lessons are taught there. It’s time parents understand that involvement is needed throughout a child’s academic career. And while it is essential that they establish a strong foundation of support by third grade, this work cannot end here. Indeed, there must be continuous effort to help children succeed; parental involvement can carry a child through learning struggles, difficult adolescent years, even into young adulthood. In these formative periods, parental encouragement must be a consistent priority.
If parents do not become involved in their children’s academic growth when they are young, their kids are more likely to lack the foundational skills that will help them through adulthood — and parents may well be forced to intervene in even more pressing ways as their grown children founder.
What Can You Do?
Each parent must remember that it is acceptable — even necessary — to create rules in her home. Moreover, parents should be careful about doling out rewards, since rewarding children for behaviors they are supposed to practice anyway only creates an obligation on the part of the parent and a sense of entitlement on the part of the child. This, in my opinion, is the worst thing a parent could do. The role of the parent is to nurture, protect, educate, and advocate for her child. Pacifying children — which is what rewarding them undeservedly does — is not a parental duty.
In an age of technology, the role that parents can play in a child’s academic achievement is made easier. Nearly everyone has a smartphone or access to the Internet. Even when a parent is not physically present, she can still be in frequent communication.
Below are several recommendations that parents can consider to supervise and support their child’s growth:
- Pay close attention to social media usage by your child
- Stay in frequent contact with your child’s school, regardless of the grade she’s in
- Express your opinions and concerns to school administrators, teachers, politicians, civic leaders, or anyone responsible for the lives of children
- Examine your child’s homework, classwork, and other assignments regularly
- Ask for support from teachers, family members, and neighbors when you are struggling
- Always follow your instincts
- Remember that kids should have no choices; you are the responsible adult whose job is to guide them
- Every decision should result from logical thinking
The greatest gift a parent can give to a child is the opportunity to grow within well-defined boundaries. A child should be given the opportunity to listen and learn without distractions. Finally, parents need to make clear that children have never been in charge, nor should they ever be.
For further thoughts from experienced educators, check out this article, "A Teacher Weighs In on Parent Involvement in Schools", and Noodle's parenting advice, as it relates to your child's learning and academic development.
Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from The Anne E. Casey Foundation
Hudson, J. (2012, July 2). An Urban Myth That Should Be True. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from The Atlantic