The day-to-day reality of many families is different today than a generation ago. Family members spend far less time together and adults often face an on-going struggle to balance the demands of their families and their jobs. While these pressures can cause parents to participate less in their children’s lives, there remains a great need for them to be involved in their children’s education.
Recent studies show that when families are involved in their children’s education in positive ways, the children achieve higher grades and test scores, have better attendance at school, complete more homework, and demonstrate more positive attitudes and behavior. Reports also indicate that families who receive frequent and positive messages from teachers tend to become more involved in their children’s education than do parents who do not receive this kind of communication.
One way to foster children’s learning is through joint efforts involving both families and schools, where parents and teachers share responsibility for creating a working relationship that will help children succeed academically. Following are some suggestions on how to build positive parent-teacher relationships.
As their children’s first teachers, parents and families can:
- Read together. Read with your children and let them see you and older children read. When adult family members read to their children or listen to them read on a regular basis, achievement improves. Take your children to the library to get a library card and help them find books to suit their interests and hobbies.
- Establish a family routine. Routines generally include time for completing homework, doing chores, eating meals together, and going to bed at an established time. These daily events are important to make life predictable for children and satisfying for all family members. Encourage your child’s efforts and be available for questions while she is engaged in academic work and spend time discussing what she has learned.
- Use television wisely. Limit the amount of time children spend watching television and help them choose appropriate programs for viewing. When chosen carefully, some TV programs can help increase interest in learning.
- Keep in touch with the school. Stay aware of what your children are learning, what their assignments are, and how they are doing. Make a point of visiting the school and talking with the teachers through parent/teacher conferences or family nights. If you can’t visit, schedule a telephone call to discuss your child’s progress.
- Offer praise and encouragement. Parents and families play an important role in influencing a child’s confidence and motivation to become a successful learner. Encourage them to complete assignments and introduce them to outside experiences that will enhance their self-confidence and broaden their interests.
In the effort to connect schools with parents, educators can:
- Involve parents in classroom activities. Teachers can let families know how they can be helpful and can ask for their assistance with specific activities. Parents can participate by preparing classroom materials, serving on a committee to select classroom equipment and materials, or sharing information about their careers or hobbies. The more involved parents are in what goes on in the classroom, the more likely they are to understand the teacher’s goals and practices.
- Give parents a voice in decisions. Parents’ viewpoints should be considered in making decisions about their children’s schooling. Programs can open options for families to become involved individually and collectively in making decisions about goals and standards for their children.
- Plan ahead for parent/teacher conferences. Communicate to parents at the beginning of the school year or semester about school policies and services. Inform them about classroom goals and give a few examples of what the children will be learning.
- Foster good communication during parent/teacher conferences. When meeting with family members, create a comfortable environment in which parents feel free to share information, ask questions, and make recommendations. Point out the projects that involved their child and share information in a way that encourages respectful two-way communication. Be careful not to make assumptions about a family member’s level of knowledge, understanding, or interest. Schedule an adequate amount of time for the conference so that parents do not feel rushed.
Family and school represent the primary environments in which young children grow and develop, and good schools value parental involvement. The foundation for good parent-teacher relationships is frequent and open communication, mutual respect and a clear understanding of what is best for each individual child.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. © 2008 NAEYC