Parental engagement: how much is too much

By March 12, 2020July 19th, 2020No Comments

There is no doubt that  involved parents are one of the main contributors to a student’s academic success. Of course, students with parents that are disinterested in their schoolwork can still manage to succeed, but majority of teachers would attribute student success to a few key things. Parental involvement is one of those major things.

But sometimes parents are over the top. You’ve met the mom who’s always at school, wants to chaperone every single field trip, is the first to volunteer sometimes taking the chance from others and is always the home room mom. When her children are older, she’s the one who is advocating for her children, not allowing them to self advocate. This type of parent is smothering and overbearing.

Overbearing parents that micromanage, handhold, and make excuses on behalf of the child are not doing them any favours. Such parents can be as detrimental as absentee parents.

Here are some parameters for different ages, so you can walk a middle line on parental engagement ….

1-At the start of the year, have an honest age appropriate conversation with your child about how much or how little they want you to be involved. Your third grader may want you to be her homeroom mom, whereas your high schooler may ask you NOT to be involved unless he/she is getting anything below a C. Decide when it will become necessary for you as a parent to step in. When your children are older, whatever you do, don’t have a conversation with a teacher unless the child is present. If we want them to own their life, they have to own their decisions. They are much more likely to be happy and succeed at school, if they have a sense of ownership of the whole process.

2- Always be in an open dialogue with your child about school. Regular check-ins are a great idea. Of course, you absolutely have to contact the teacher if grades suddenly plummet or behavior is out of the ordinary. Again, make sure that your child is part of that conversation. There will be times when the parent and teacher should discuss matters in the absence of the student. But approaching your child first will help give context to the situation.

3- Talk to your child about when, why, and how to approach teachers and coaches for extra help to help them self advocate. Explain the importance of asking questions in class, seeking help, and emailing teachers for clarity. Acknowledge a job well-done when your child meets with or emails a teacher herself.

Parents must learn to pass the responsibility on to the student at some point. Children who have been micromanaged and hand-held throughout their academic years will suffer later on. The time will come when mom and dad will (hopefully) not be able to contact the college professors about how their child can improve a grade.

For parents of younger children here are a few ways to remain actively involved:

1-Volunteering: whether in a classroom or for a class trip, your child will appreciate the time you put in and it’s a great way for you to observe your child with their peers and interactions with the teacher.

2-Going to the library with your child after school and choosing a book. It’s a wonderful way to bond and a quiet peaceful place to be in. Subscribing to a digital library is also a good option.

3- Helping with homework, especially in the elementary years if you feel like your child is unable to do it alone. Sometimes just having them alongside you as you work on something is all they need. As they become older, less handholding is required unless either of the parents is strong in a particular subject.

Good luck on your parenting journey, and remember always you are your child’s first teacher.