Parenting always has its challenges. Parenting a high school student can sometimes feel like the biggest challenge we face. It’s a time to encourage independence and autonomy, while still providing support. We want them to achieve academically, make the wisest decisions, and grow emotionally. We also want to protect them, help them and be involved in their lives. As a school counselor, I often watch parents struggle to provide “healthy parental involvement” and feel comfortable with their decisions.
I was reminded of these parent-child struggles after I read this recent email from Dr. Charles Fay from the Love and Logic Institute. I hope you find it as interesting and educational as I did.
Does it ever seem like we live in a world of extremes? Sometimes educators comment, “The parents of some of our students spend absolutely no time involved in their children’s educations. The end result is predictable: Their kids rarely achieve up to their potential.”
Other times teachers say, “Some of our parents are so overinvolved in their children’s homework, school assignments, and grades that their kids can’t seem to function without someone doing most of the work for them.” Considering these extremes, perhaps it makes sense to compare and contrast healthy versus unhealthy parental involvement, understanding that the healthy variety is essential for high achievement.
Healthy parental involvement means being aware of your kids’ assignments, asking questions about these assignments, and offering assistance if they ask. It means giving ideas and allowing them to do the lion’s share of the work. Unhealthy parental involvement means constantly reminding and rescuing, essentially taking more responsibility for their work than they do.
Healthy parental involvement means consistently allowing your kids to evaluate how they feel about their performance. This might sound like, “You have a sixty-nine in music so far. How do you feel about that?” or asking, “You earned a ninety-eight on that test. How does that leave you feeling?” Kids allowed to own the good and not-so-good feelings associated with their performance are more likely to understand and care about the connection between their personal effort and outcomes.
Unhealthy parental involvement means making it all about our feelings. This might go like, “That sixty-nine in music is just not acceptable. You need to bring that grade up” or it may sound like, “You earned a ninety-eight on that test. That makes me so happy. That’s great.” When we make their grades about our feelings, we run the risk of stealing opportunities for them to think about how these grades personally affect them.
Healthy parental involvement means putting most of our energy into providing a healthy home where kids are loved, respected, and expected to complete chores. It’s about creating a place where they get to experience an authentic relationship between cause and effect. In other words, they experience the gift of loving discipline.
Unhealthy parental involvement means spending so much time criticizing the school and rescuing our kids from their teachers that we have little time or energy left over to create a rock solid home environment.
Healthy parental involvement means allowing our kids to hear us talking with excitement about our own learning. It also means letting them hear us saying positive things about their teachers and their school.
Unhealthy parental involvement involves providing plenty of lectures about how important education is while allowing our kids to hear us gripe and complain about our own learning responsibilities and how subpar the school and teachers are.
Overall, healthy parental involvement means being good models. It means allowing kids to make mistakes. It means providing plenty of empathy. It definitely means remembering that raising kids who can think and learn for themselves is not for the faint of heart.