ParentsCare Parenting For School Success!!
Last month, in parent preparation for this school year, we provided a lot of relatively new research regarding the importance of effective parenting in the lives of children, specifically as it relates to school success and performance. Although the research and my comments were mostly about teenagers, the findings and observations apply to all children all the time, any where.
I want to return to the research for a few more important findings this month. The primary conclusion of the research as far as I’m concerned is that the kind of parent-child relationship existing in homes clearly represents an important influence on the lives of children, and yes, it applies heavily to adolescents.
From the research: While many studies provide strong evidence of the link between positive parent-child relation ships and child, teen, and even adult outcomes, it is also important to acknowledge that there has been controversy about the importance of parents and that research certainly finds that peer influence also matters during adolescence. It’s true. Peers can be greatly influential. However, the evidence that parents matter greatly is very compelling. Non-experimental research studies consistently find that parents are a critical influence in the lives of their children, adolescents included.
At the same time, it is critical to acknowledge that some adolescents do not feel close to their parents. In the NLSY97, the quoted research here, nearly four in 10 teens report that they do not have highly positive feelings about their parents. In fact, about one in 20 adolescents strongly disagree that they “think highly of” and “want to be like” their residential mother or father. As noted last month these attitudes are more likely when adolescents live apart from a parent and when their residential parent is not their biological parent. Even in these instances, though, a substantial proportion of adolescents hold very positive feelings toward their parent or stepparent. However, for that minority of teens who hold negative views, there is reason for concern. Supporting healthy marriages to help parents stay together or helping non-custodial, or co-custodial parents remain involved in their children’s lives may help some parents remain or become closer to their children. In other cases, parents may need to put time and effort into developing stronger relationships with their children, for example, by spending more unhurried time together and communicating regularly or by obtaining counseling. Becoming more aware that parent-adolescent relationships and interactions matter during the teen years may convince parents that this investment of time and effort is worthwhile, even if their teen appears uninterested at present.
Youth definitely benefit from increased effective parental involvement. With few exceptions across the 21 countries included in this study, more frequent parent-youth interactions were found to be associated with higher levels of reading, scientific, and mathematical literacy. In 16 of the 21 countries included in the study, the results indicate that youth who eat meals (without friction) with their parents frequently have higher levels of reading literacy, even when social and economic differences across families are controlled. This finding echoes prior research, which has found that eating meals together as a family is associated with positive child outcomes. Similarly, the study found that youth who discuss politics or social issues frequently with their parents have significantly higher levels of reading, mathematical, and scientific literacy, even after taking other factors into account. Youth also appear to benefit from talking with their parents about books, films, and television.
Reports from U.S. adolescents indicate that, in general, teens feel close to their parents, think highly of them, and even want to spend time with them. In addition, research shows that quality parent-child relationships are linked to a wide range of positive outcomes for adolescents, such as mental and emotional well-being, adjustment, and social competence, and to lower levels of problem behaviors, such as substance use, delinquency, and premature sexual activity. Moreover, data from research on parent-adult child relationships indicate that psychological, social, and health benefits persist over time.
Parent-child closeness and parental involvement need to be age-appropriate. As children go through adolescence and become young adults, they do need to become more independent and responsible. For example, it would be inappropriate to monitor an 18-year-old as closely as a 13- year-old. However, research suggests that 18-year-olds continue to benefit from love, advice, values, and an ongoing sense that their parents care about what they do and what happens to them.
Knowing that the relationship we have with our children (teens) is important to their school and life success is one thing, but KNOWING HOW to build and maintain an effective relationship is another matter and that’s what this column has been about for almost 14 years; providing you with the knowledge for doing the job you want to do as a parent. The earlier parents start on those relationships, the better.
We’ll close out this month with the beginning of some helpful tips on how to work best with your teens during this most difficult part of their lives, and perhaps your own. The degree of difficulty might just depend on the relationships you have built up until now. We’ll begin these tips from a list offered by Sue Blaney of Stop the Roller Coaster with some comments of my own thrown in. Tips for Parenting Teenagers