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Helicopter parent's beware

The Perry County News - 9/13/2017



We've all heard of "helicopter parents" who hover over their children, rescuing them at the first sign of struggle. I recall my child's fourth-grade teacher instructing parents not to complete an assigned project.

However, the picture-perfect replicas of world landmarks made it clear some families disregarded the teacher's plea.

Research shows that helping with homework is one of the least effective ways to ensure student success, and overzealous parenting can harm a child's education, self-confidence and independence.

Yet studies also show students with engaged parents are more likely to have better grades, social skills and test scores, while being less likely to smoke, drink or become pregnant. Family engagement is also tied to greater teacher satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

Parental engagement is a partnership in which families and school staff work together to support and improve the learning, development and well-being of students. The key to high-impact engagement is meaningful, sustained connections between the students, parents and educators.

Ideally in these partnerships, parents are viewed as the child's first teachers, who can reinforce classroom learning. Experts recommend parents view teachers as extended family, playing a critical role in a student's academic and social-emotional well-being. It's a partnership grounded in shared responsibility, communication and accountability that should leave students, parents and educators feeling connected and supported.

Unfortunately, not all families have equitable opportunities to engage in their children's education. Work and transportation conflicts are common challenges. Language and cultural barriers as well as prior negative educational experiences can inhibit a family's comfort level.

While these barriers are significant, it's critical to recognize that more than 80 percent of parents want to be involved in their child's educational and developmental success. Experts agree that schools must listen to parent concerns and constraints and find ways over hurdles.

Parents can take the first step by contacting your student's teachers, letting them know unique aspects of your child's personality. Look for ways to reinforce classroom lessons at home and include extended family members as part of your family engagement team. Above all, parents should clearly and repeatedly state their expectations for their child's academic achievements.

Each school and family must find the balance between student, parent and educator involvement. Those of us working with kids need to create the tools and support systems to help these critical relationships flourish.

We know effective parent engagement reaps critical benefits for all parties. Rather than constantly hovering, perhaps we should become "hummingbird parents," buzzing in regularly but briefly for support.

Striking this balance will allow our children to feel supported yet independent, while maintaining quality relationships with educators. After all, family engagement is something parents and teachers want, and all students deserve.

Silverman is the president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Youth Institute.


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