It’s crucial not to underestimate the importance of parental involvement in a child’s education. The input you provide is a determining factor in how successful they are not only as children, but adults, too. However, problems arise when that involvement becomes heavy-handed, often to the point of being overbearing, and managing to avoid this dangerous pitfall is not always easy.
How to Be a Part of Your Child's Education without Being Too Heavy-Handed
Loosen the Control
Teenagers will invariably find a million and one excuses not to do their homework, and while they may need gentle encouragement, they should ultimately be responsible for their own work. There is often a tendency for well-meaning parents to become over-involved in their child’s homework. This might be through genuine concern for their feelings (it can hurt when you get something wrong), but all it does is create a false sense of security when you ensure that they never do anything less than perfectly.
Perhaps you have high expectations, with mistakes simply not tolerated, or you might see your child as an extension of you, with their performance a reflection of who you are. If you recognize yourself in any of these examples, it is important to realize that children should be made aware of consequences: if their work is shoddy or not done, then they need to be held accountable. As tough as it seems, they should also be allowed to experience failure, and more importantly, learn how to deal with the upsetting emotions that accompany it. Supervising and scrutinizing their work will only lead to greater problems in the future, when you are no longer around to oversee everything they do. That said, encouraging support from a distance, and being on hand to answer any questions they might have, are crucial; just don’t ever be tempted to do their homework for them.
Get Involved in School
It’s perhaps no great surprise that the more familiar you are with your child’s school, the higher their achievements. Get involved with parent and teacher associations: volunteering for events allows you to establish a relationship with the school in an informal setting, and will often provide you with information you might not otherwise be privy to. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t wait until there is a problem before speaking to the teacher; regular contact will help pave the way for an easier resolution of any issues that may arise.
Support and Understand
The teenage years can be some of the most challenging (for you and them). During times of despair, it is important to remember that your teenager still requires the same amount of unconditional love you gave them as a six-year-old. Where school is concerned, don’t criticize or push them too hard, even if you feel they are more productive when you operate a heavy-handed approach. Children of all ages respond much better with a gentle, caring style of parenting, over a dominating one.
When things don’t go to plan, such as doing badly in a test, try to stay calm; ranting or getting cross will only alienate them, and we all know teenagers are programmed to resist nagging! Keep your personal feelings in check, and open up a dialogue, discussing what went wrong, and exploring possible solutions for next time (teenagers are much more open to suggestions when they think it’s their idea). Although it might not always be as apparent during their nonchalant, uncommunicative teenage years, adolescents crave positive affirmations; so lay off with the negative comments, and heap on the praise. This is particularly pertinent when it is a subject they struggle with, as they need to know that effort is more important than grades.
Cultivate an Environment Conducive to Learning
Your home environment is crucially important, and there are many ways in which you can boost your child’s learning potential. These include ensuring your child gets an adequate amount of sleep (scientific studies state that older teens need more than younger), encouraging healthy eating habits (with an emphasis on sitting down to family meals), and giving them responsibilities like household chores.
Establishing routines, such as set meal times during the week, or no television until homework is finished, will help your child understand what is expected of them. Provide a quiet spot for your child where they can work undisturbed, with plenty of space to spread out. Try to avoid areas close to televisions or loud music; despite your teenager’s claims that they work better with music on, studies have suggested that external noise can dramatically reduce a child’s ability to retain information. Encourage reading: although usually the focus for parents with pre-school children, research suggests that when teenagers reduce the time spent watching television and increase their reading, they do significantly better in tests.