Home Responsibility for Educating Children (page 4)
Parents and caregivers bear great responsibility for children’s early learning and for the genesis of and support for the curriculum that children will use for their entire lives. Parents also have a significant role in nurturing the academic work children experience after entering school. No formal or legal demands exist that require parents to instruct their children. At the same time, common cultural assumptions regarding child rearing imply that parents will guide and prepare children for life in a community. Also, statutes concerning abuse and neglect have emerged over the years, and parents parsimonious in nurturing and guiding their children risk citations of maltreatment and its consequences (Lazzara & Poland, 2001). Parents must also be vigilant in protecting their child from abuse from others entrusted with their care.
Most societies do little to formally prepare parents for rearing children, and the United States is no exception. When extended families were more common, child raising was probably more coherent. Informal advice from other parents and extended family was more available, community standards were more constant, and families were far less mobile (Walsh, F., 2002). In today’s society, with its matrix of ever-increasing forces producing stress, mobility, and differing home styles, child-raising practice has become less consistent and more pressured (Elkind, 2001, 1994). Daily lives now are more frenetic, and some families come close to abandoning responsibilities for home guidance, and by default the media assumes a larger role. Unfortunately considerable amounts of information on television, films, video games, CDs, and the Internet tend to offer role models that “emphasize commercialism, sexuality, substance abuse, and violence” (Bronfenbrenner, 2001, p. 199).
Nonetheless, expectations for parents do exist, and persons in other social settings anticipate that families will provide these beginning experiences as children grow and move into the conventional school environment and the neighborhood.
Providing Consistent Social and Emotional Environments
Effective homes develop environments that nurture children’s social and emotional well-being, and the overriding dimension is one of care and interest. All of this translates into positive self-concepts for children, plus a good foundation for children’s self esteem. In addition, the child’s locus of control is directly related to the parenting that a child receives. Whether children see themselves or others in control determines the way they look toward the future.
How can we encourage parents in guiding and nurturing their children and at the same time to establish contacts outside the home? Workshops, information distribution, and discussions that parents attend are only part of the answer. Supporting families through family–school–community collaborations and involving parents in extended networks will do the most to enhance social and emotional health in homes. Benson (1997), Hammer and Turner (2000), and Gonzales-Mena (2006) all have nicely developed collaboration schemes.
Parents’ workplaces affect their perceptions of life and the way they interact with children and other family members (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter, 1982; Wohl, 1997). In turn, these perceptions foster parenting styles that conform to parents’ experiences and how they see themselves in the world. On the positive side, we have the effective-family investigations (Clark, 1983; Noddings, 2002; Scarf, 1997), showing that the functioning family views itself as a problem-solving unit with a mutual support system and a spiritual life that is valued.
Child-rearing patterns certainly affect children’s level of moral development. Children’s attitudes form early, and parents and peers have a significant impact through instruction, modeling, rewards, and punishments (Bronfenbrenner, Moen, & Garbarino, 1984). Children’s values tend to reflect those of their family, but other experiences also affect this development. Individuals exposed to many socializing agents (e.g., clergy members, family network friends, peers, and teachers) are more likely to achieve a higher level of moral reasoning than those exposed to only a few (Coles, 1997; Damon, 1988).
Developing Interactive Skills
Imparting basic wisdom about human relationships must begin in the home. It is the family’s responsibility to develop children’s initial interaction and negotiating skills, even though these are extended considerably in other groupings (i.e., peer group, child care, and school situations). Teaching about sensitivity to others, the logic of cooperative action and taking turns, and the need to respect others and to share materials has its place in the social life of growing children (Black & Puckett, 2005).
Competent families demonstrate interactive skills that permit children to interact with the world with their values and moral notions in place. Modeling and discussions in the home will help, and when the family is an active part of the larger community, this extends children’s social contacts so that they use more than one interactive style (Salzstein, 1976; Walker & Taylor, 1991). Children’s growth will reflect their participation and experience.
Except in cases of severe neglect, parents and other family members automatically instill in children the basics of socialization. Children early and naturally learn to greet and respond to others, recognize acquaintances, play games with siblings, and mimic and follow one another. In addition, many parents recognize the importance of providing their children with educational toys and experiences with other children as part of the socialization process (Kieff & Casbergue, 2000). More than 65% of American preschool children are in some form of child care, and this means that socialization skills are affected considerably by events and people outside the home.
Negative Social Behaviors
In concert with expanded violence and aggression in the media, American schools and neighborhoods are experiencing an intensity of negative social behaviors, such as hazing and bullying. Bullying is unprovoked verbal or physical aggression toward others and is traced to aggressive behaviors in homes and in media, to attachment problems, to child abuse, and even to genetics (Okagaki & Luster, 2005). Often linked with men in previous generations, bullying has become common among girls today (Prothrow-Stith & Spivak, 2003). Both the socialization practices in the United States and the entertainment media condone and excuse more aggressive and often violent behavior. Families as well as schools and communities are justly concerned about the increase, and plans need to be made to modify this dangerous behavior. Socialization processes for youth need ongoing evaluation, and all families need to work with their schools to develop skills in anticipating harassment and bullying acts and also to put in place strategies to teach negotiation, compromise, and conflict resolution. See Siris (2001) and Center for Mental Health Services (2003) for a listing of basic strategies.
Producing a Literacy Atmosphere
Babies are immersed in language from birth and begin to develop communication skills during the earliest months of life. Their skills expand rapidly because of planned and unplanned family interactions and experiences (Sparling, 2004). Parents echo their infant’s vocalizations, name things, and direct the baby’s attention to the objects, people, and events around them. Parents, other family members, and caregivers often explain to the baby what they and the baby are doing, demonstrating with real objects accompanied by language. Families often introduce babies to books during their first year: Talking about the pictures, turning the pages, and sharing the pleasure of snuggling together with a book will become the foundation for later reading development. Writing emerges in much the same way. Toddlers, given paper and crayons, will scribble, draw, and make lists in imitation of their parents’ writing. All young children find it necessary to communicate with different adults and with their peers, and this develops language, which is the base for literacy.
Later literacy development in the home includes listening to, discussing, and making up stories; practicing reading and writing; and modeling more elaborate speech (Beaty, 2006; Jacobs, K., 2004). Research with children involved in a family literacy project (Paratore, 2001) indicates that “children who have parents who read to them, help with homework, monitor their performance in school by asking questions of them or their teacher, and who urged them to be on time and to behave courteously achieved success in school.”
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