Parental Involvement in Schooling (page 2)
There is an extensive research literature attesting to the importance for children’s achievement of parental involvement in their schooling (Fan & Chen, 2001). Much less has been written, however, on the influence of parental involvement in schooling on children’s academic motivation.
There are many ways that parents can be involved in their children’s schooling. The most common way is to engage with their children on homework and projects. Parents also are involved when they visit children’s schools, meet with their teachers, partake of school activities and events, volunteer at the school, obtain resources for school events, help their children with course selection, keep abreast of children’s academic progress, and impart their educational values to children. The available literature shows positive benefits of parental involvement in schooling for several motivational variables including school engagement, intrinsic motivation, perceived competence and control, self-regulation, mastery goal orientation, and motivation to read (Gonzalez-DeHass, Willems, & Doan Holbein, 2005; Ratelle, Guay, Larose, & Senécal, 2004). Parental involvement is linked significantly with children’s development of self-regulation skills (Stright, Neitzel, Sears, & Hoke-Sinex, 2001). Research also shows that parental involvement among homeless families relates positively to children’s achievement and appropriate school behavior—the latter is a critical correlate of motivation (Miliotis, Sesma, & Masten, 1999).
Once children are in school, father involvement both in and out of school relates directly to children’s motivation and achievement (Gonzalez-DeHass et al., 2005; Tamis-LeMonda & Cabrera, 1999). Although fathers are seen less often than mothers at such events as parent-teacher conferences and school meetings, their presence at these activities is important. Perhaps father presence sends a message to the child that school is important because the father is willing to spend part of his time there.
Gonzalez-DeHass et al. (2005) discuss plausible explanations for the benefits of parental involvement on children’s motivation. Research shows that parental involvement raises children’s perceived competence and control. Children who feel more efficacious and in control of their learning are apt to be more motivated to learn. Parental involvement also offers children a sense of security and connectedness. Especially as children grow older, parental involvement conveys that children are very important to their parents. This sense of connectedness may help children to develop friendships among like-minded peers. Third, parental involvement helps children internalize educational values. Parental involvement conveys that education is important, and this value may be especially critical among adolescents who have friends who are disengaged from school and considering dropping out. And finally, children’s motivation actually can increase parental involvement. When children are motivated to do well in school and participate in activities parents are likely to encourage and assist them. Thus, the influence between parental involvement and children’s motivation may be reciprocal.
Applying Parental and Familial Support Strategies
Parents can affect their children’s motivation both directly (e.g., by giving advice, requiring them to do homework) and indirectly (e.g., by steering them to desirable activities and other people who influence their motivation). Some examples of these follow.
- During summer vacation, Kara has been laying around the house and watching TV and videos. To stimulate her academic motivation, her parents get her to agree to be part of a summer book club. If she reads 10 books, her parents will take her to the beach for a weekend. This motivates Kara and she makes good progress. After she finished her tenth book, she maintained her motivation for reading and completed five more books before school began.
- Jack picks up his third-grade daughter Samantha one day each week and takes her out to lunch. Jack always arrives a few minutes early, and before Samantha gets out of class he walks through the halls and greets school staff (e.g., principal, media specialist, office personnel, teachers) and other parents. Samantha likes going to lunch with her dad, and his taking time out of his busy schedule to spend time at the school and with her shows her how important he thinks school is. By midway through the school year, Jack has volunteered to work on three activities, which further increases his involvement in Samantha’s school.
- Twelve-year-old Tad’s parents are concerned because two of his friends are part of a crowd that does not value academics. When a summer band camp is advertised, they check with parents of other children to see who will be attending. It becomes clear that many of the students who will attend the camp also earn good grades in school. Tad’s parents convince him to attend the camp. Although they cannot control who his friends will be at the camp, they figure that it probably does not matter much who they are because the campers as a group will be students who do well in school.
- A lot of 14-year-old Jason’s friends are hanging out at the mall on weekends. This is not the crowd that his parents want him to be part of. A classmate’s parents, who share this concern, own an old building in town. Together with Jason’s and other parents, they renovate it and equip it with games and activities for adolescents. When it opens, Jason and many others go there instead of to the mall. Parents take turns supervising. Jason’s parents find that the students who come are part of the social and academic crowds at the school.
- When 10-year-old Laura comes home from school each day, she talks with her mother about what happened at school. Her mom stops what she is doing to devote her attention to Laura during this time. Laura appreciates her mom’s responsiveness to her needs. Once this is finished, Laura and her mom decide on a plan for Laura to complete her homework. Positive reports from Laura’s teacher help to build her mom’s parenting self-efficacy and motivate her to continue to spend this “talk time” each day with Laura.
In sum, there is evidence that parental involvement in schooling impacts children’s cognitive, social, and affective development, as well as prosocial behavior and academic motivation and achievement.
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