Parents, grandparents, teachers, peers, extended family, media, heredity, and the environment all contribute to a child’s development; however, parents (if present) are the most powerful influence in the lives of their children. Parental involvement not only shapes development during the initial years of life, but also during the adolescent and adult years.
Given this important role, to what extent should parents be involved in their children’s development? According to the National PTA, “Parental involvement is the participation of parents in every facet of the education and development of children from birth to adulthood, recognizing that parents are the primary influence in their children’s lives.” Parents have a tremendous responsibility to be involved with their children both inside and outside the home.
Decades of research have demonstrated that the more involved parents are in their children’s development, the greater chance children will succeed, particularly in their academic performance. Consistently, researchers have discovered that greater parental involvement in a child’s education is associated with:
• higher student grades and test scores,
• better attendance,
• higher rates of homework completion,
• more positive student attitudes and behavior,
• higher graduation rates, and
• greater enrollment rates in post-secondary education.
When parents are involved, children achieve more regardless of their socioeconomic level, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ educational level.
Research on early brain development has shown, positive parental involvement needs to begin long before children enter formal schooling arrangements. The early years of a child’s life are critically important for healthy brain development, attachment formation, and language acquisition. When parents become actively involved with their children at an early age, they lay a foundation for learning that will benefit children for the rest of their lives.
Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent in Parker County.