Parenting takes a lot of skill and patience and is always a ‘work in progress’. The social skills, cognitive potential, and behavioral functioning that a child acquires during the earliest years are fundamentally dependent on the quality of their interactions with their parents. Equally important is the quality of interactions between school staff, teachers, and parents of student learners in pk-12 education settings.
Historically, most of the education was the task of parents and the rest of the family. Before the establishment of compulsory education, parents were expected to assume full responsibility for the upbringing of their children, including their formal education. The latter is now a primary responsibility of the school. It was left to parents as to whether their children were formally educated or not. It is now recognized that formal education and schools can’t do it alone, and we are realizing the importance of parents and the cooperation with them as, also, one of the responsibilities of the school.
A recent study found that bad parenting can be passed on to the next generations in the family. The more unpleasant the parent’s childhood was, the more likely their children’s will be troubled, as well. Most programs that aim to enhance parenting skills are typically geared towards mothers, even though research has shown that when fathers are actively involved in their child’s lives, children are less disruptive and better adjusted. Parenting skills programs still target mothers.
Schools are the perfectly suited 21st Century setting for parenting education, since all parents have some connection to schools and for a number of years. However, relations between home and school leave much to be desired. It can be said that ‘parent education’ is not necessarily the approach as much as is ‘cooperation’ with parents in education. Either way, parents have so much to learn about schools and also child development. Educators, likewise, have much to learn about their students, the home and the diversity of families.
Parents need to know how their interactions with their children affect their development. Most people will tend to create the types of families they grew up in, and many unhealthy patterns are continued. Families need support in order to maintain healthy status. They are not always able to create a healthy atmosphere that contributes to a healthy family. They may need help from the outside, and school programs can offer information and opportunities to learn new skills, techniques and parenting strategies. Interpersonal skills, communication and coping strategies can be introduced, modeled and practiced as parts of parenting support and education programs. Academic related strategies are not all that we wish for parents whose children attend our schools.
The comprehensive growth and development that embodies the ‘whole’ child approach, is not limited to 8am-3pm Monday-Friday, but encompasses a child’s lived experiences 24/7. Therefore, parents must be involved in the learning that takes place in school settings, and educators at school must be involved in the learning that takes place in the community and home environment. ‘Involved’ does not imply that we get ‘all up in people’s business’ or try to control what happens at home, or dictate to parents the ‘right’ way to do their jobs. Instead, we collaborate in partnership and connect with parents to align with similarly congruent purposes-to rear a well-adjusted child whose growth and development is optimized by healthy, supportive and safe environments-at home and at school.
We help parents to be the best versions of themselves, encourage children to grow into the best versions of themselves, and commit ourselves to being effective communicators and culturally proficient professional educators.
What do we do with parents once they’ve come to school? We educate for when parent education works, parents have the information to be a good parent, and develop more confidence in their roles as parents.
Parents have the power to create change, and should be seen as the most important contributors to bringing about long-term change in children.
We can teach parents how to reduce the impact of marital conflicts, or ‘baby mama drama’ on their children and how to create a non-adversarial environment. How a child responds to behavioral redirection from a parent depends on what they think about that parent, whether they see the parent as involved in their life, and if they believe that the parent really cares about what he/she is doing. We wish to improve not only the child’s behavioral problems but any maladaptive patterns of interactions within the family.
All parent education efforts and programming initiatives have benefits for parents, schools, communities, and most importantly the children, who themselves are so very dependent upon the quality experiences within each environments. Cumulatively, the impact, positive and negative, influences, and contributes to the comprehensive development, and life trajectory of youth.