Monday, July 13, 2009

Parents and Your Child's Academic Success

Most parents want to help their child be successful in school. However, as a child ages and changes, the ways you help may also change.

During elementary school, a healthy parent-teacher relationship is essential to keep up with how your child is doing academically. Helping with homework and being supportive of their school work on a daily basis is also vital during this period of time.

However, this dynamic changes once a child reaches middle school. Now, kids now have multiple teachers, their interests are evolving, and most notably, they are going through puberty. Obviously, children in puberty undergo massive physical and mental changes becoming more adult-like, but not yet fully mature.

So what's a parents role in helping a middle schooler or high schooler be successful in school? A recent study conducted by Nancy E. Hill PhD, of Harvard University, assessed different styles of parental involvement with middle school children and their academic drive. According to Hill, during the middle school years, “Teens are starting to internalize goals, beliefs, and motivations and [they] use these to make decision. Although they may want to make their own decisions, they need guidance from parents to help provide the link between school and their aspirations for future work.” In other words, young teenagers need to do most of it themselves, but they still need help making the connection between hard work in school and a future payoff.

It is this emphasis on academic achievement and how it relates to potential life goals that seems to have the greatest influence on these maturing students. For many, friends become a higher priority, diminishing one’s focus on homework. From an early adolescent’s perspective, parental involvement in academics can be more or less embarrassing or annoying.

So, as a parent, you may need to be less involved in the your child's day-to-day school performance, but you still have an important role in helping him or her see the important relationship between future aspirations and academic success. If you do it the right way, without being or overbearing, your child is likely to internalize this connection and establish a drive to do well in school.

By: Emma Kate Wright and Mara Ivey

APA Press Release. May 19, 2009. “Tying Education to Future Goals May Boost Grades More Than Helping with Homework, Research Finds.”