Thursday, April 17, 2014

Parental involvement lowers grades

Parents are often trying to convince family court judges of their involvement in their kids' schooling, as if that is something that all parents should be doing. But most of that involvement is worthless.

A couple of socilogy professors wroite in the NY Times:
Most people, asked whether parental involvement benefits children academically, would say, “of course it does.” But evidence from our research suggests otherwise. In fact, most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it.

Over the past few years, we conducted an extensive study of whether the depth of parental engagement in children’s academic lives improved their test scores and grades. We pursued this question because we noticed that while policy makers were convinced that parental involvement positively affected children’s schooling outcomes, academic studies were much more inconclusive.

Despite this, increasing parental involvement has been one of the focal points of both President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and President Obama’s Race to the Top. Both programs promote parental engagement as one remedy for persistent socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps. ...

In fact, there were more instances in which children had higher levels of achievement when their parents were less involved than there were among those whose parents were more involved. Even more counterintuitively: When involvement does seem to matter, the consequences for children’s achievement are more often negative than positive.
For the most part, those parent-teacher meetings are a waste of time.

In other parenting research, it does no good to feed babies in the middle of the night. NPR Radio reports:

Most of us chalk up a baby's nighttime crying to one simple fact: He's hungry.

But could that chubby bundle of joy have a devious plan?

Harvard University's David Haig thinks so. Last month the evolutionary biologist offered up a surprising hypothesis to help explain those 2 a.m. feedings and crying jags: The baby is delaying the conception of a sibling by keeping Mom exhausted and not ovulating, Haig writes in the current issue of the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. ...

"It's clear that babies can get enough milk even if they sleep through the night," Haig tells Shots. "The waking becomes a different issue. ... I'm just suggesting that offspring have evolved to use waking up mothers and suckling more intensely to delay the birth of another sibling."

Moms like to feel as if they are doing something worthwhile when they do those feedings, and some are stilling doing it for 2-year-olds, but apparently there is no direct advantage to the baby.

A psychology professor writes a NY Times article on raising a moral child:
In an Israeli study of nearly 600 families, parents who valued kindness and compassion frequently failed to raise children who shared those values. ...

Genetic twin studies suggest that anywhere from a quarter to more than half of our propensity to be giving and caring is inherited. ...

Many parents believe it’s important to compliment the behavior, not the child — that way, the child learns to repeat the behavior. Indeed, I know one couple who are careful to say, “That was such a helpful thing to do,” instead of, “You’re a helpful person.”

But is that the right approach?
The experiments imply that the answer is no. And also that what you teach them does not matter so much, because they will learn from what you do, not what you say.

One of the great advances of Christianity was to move to a guilt-based culture, instead of a shame-based culture like the rest of the world. Here is the difference:
Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person, whereas guilt is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating: Shame makes children feel small and worthless, and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether. In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior. When children feel guilt, they tend to experience remorse and regret, empathize with the person they have harmed, and aim to make it right. ...

If we want our children to care about others, we need to teach them to feel guilt rather than shame when they misbehave.

1 comment:

paulmurray said...

Speaking as an ex schoolkid who never lived up to his potential, what a kid needs is not someone to help them with their homework, but someone to make them do it. What I was always missing knowing how to use a calendar to keep track of what assignments had to be done and when they were due. Discipline and structure, in other words.