The authors, who have published a book on their findings, make the somewhat unexpected claim that parental "involvement" does not have nearly the effect on a children's success at school that prior studies have shown, and in some cases may be harmful. Being a mom who asks every day, "how is homework going? Do you need any help? How did school go? Any problems?" and one who reviews the weekly folder of school reports with a fine tooth comb, this article totally threw me.
Trying to be a good scientist, I of course went searching for the actual study that authors quote but kept running into websites where I could only buy the entire BOOK so unfortunately I was not able to review the data and methods. Most importantly I wanted to see how the study authors defined "parental involvement" because the term itself is very vague. For the record this is not the first time this question has been raised. There is at least one other major newspaper article preceding this one where an author questions the value of "parental involvement."
After I recovered from the major double-take and frown-face I had while reading this article, I made myself think through the major points, as well as the definitions lacking in the article.We really need to know what "involvement" means--is it DOING a kid's homework( which most of us would agree does not help the kid), showing up at PTA meetings, reading to the child, reviewing grades?
I wish I could make a stronger statement supporting or ripping-apart this article but I can't without actually reading their study. I have learned, painfully, that the version of science/studies that is presented in the press can be quite far from what was actually performed. The diluted version sometimes is busy being controversial and headline-grabbing instead of presenting the true science and stats, including the shortcomings of the study. Based on what was presented in this obviously controversial article, I personally have a few things to say. First I do not at all believe that appropriate parental "involvement" would negatively impact a child. By the way, to me "involvement" means a parent showing interest in a child's work by asking about it, looking at it(without doing the work), engaging in conversation about topics being covered in school, reviewing grades, and maintaining appropriate levels of contact with the school via standard parent-teacher conferences and school events when possible. Second, this article, like many in the press, is not prescribing ANYTHING to any of us parents. It is designed to be controversial, make us argue and hopefully buy their book. There is nothing wrong in questioning the status quo, which this article and study authors do. If anything it should make us look harder at what we ARE doing and ensure we are not taking it for granted that we continue doing the right things when perhaps there could be better options.
Third, it reminds me that parenting is yet another social role that will be questioned, by ourselves and those around us: are we doing it right? And what the heck constitutes "right" anyway, and by the way, says who? I think that we should question or reevaluate from time to time, given the consequences, but also realize that there are likely many ways to achieve the same basic success that we all want: well adjusted, happy, productive little citizens of the world. No one study or book will ever apply to every single family, no matter how large the study. The number of confounds in these studies must be staggering, and with poorly outlined definitions of outcomes it only makes them less applicable. But they certainly get our attention, don't they?
Questions about parenting are deeply personal for all of us.The way we were parented leaves imprints that cannot be easily erased, and how we choose to raise our own children is always a deeply personal decision even if it feels like we are flying by the seats of our pants some days. Well-meaning suggestions can rub us the wrong way, much less when "study findings" are placed in a purposely inflammatory article of a respected newspaper. Remember the "Tiger Mom" controversy that garnered thousands of comments from both supporters and angry parents? In these blessed years that I have been a parent, I have already learned that navigating the social waters of parenthood is very tricky and rife with whirlpools all over the place. So for now I say "thanks" to the study authors for raising interesting points and questions, and I will think about them. But my own parenting technique will not change based on that article: I'll stick with my level of "involvement", prayers and love.So far my kids seem to be doing just fine.