Parent Involvement: How Much is Too Much?

family blog

Involved parents are undoubtedly one of the main contributors to a student’s academic success. As much as students may not acknowledge it, you parents are very significant to your child’s education. We’ve seen the data–statistics, charts, and graphs about how absent or uninvolved parents result in academically low-achieving children. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule–students with parents that are disinterested in their schoolwork can still manage to succeed by making academics a priority. Even so, the majority of teachers would attribute student success to a few key things. Parent involvement is one of those major things.


At times, however, the pendulum may swing too far. Overbearing parents that micromanage, handhold, and make excuses on behalf of the child can be as detrimental as the parents who are absent all together. This can be quite the fine line, especially for the major academic transition years when students are entering middle school or high school. Moreover, this is a difficult conversation for teachers and parents to have–no parent wants to be told to “back off.” And trust me, no teacher wants to be that messenger either! Below are a few tips on how to loosen the reins while still maintaining involvement in your child’s education.


Have a “my job/your job” conversation


One way to lay out the ground rules and expectations of your involvement during the school year is to simply discuss it at the start of the academic year. Talk with your child about when and why you will get involved with your child’s teachers. Under what circumstances should your child take the lead in handling a situation? When does it become necessary for parents to step in?


For example, your teenage child should not rely on you to email her teacher about an extension on a project–that is the student’s job. Furthermore, while teachers appreciate parental involvement, it is often a welcomed sign of maturity and autonomy when students take initiative to handle a situation with the teacher personally, as opposed to calling on mom or dad. Simply discussing what is and is not your job as the parent sends the message that your child should be in control of his or her academics.


Check-in on vs. Check-up on


Checking-in with your child is less invasive than checking-up on your child. You absolutely can and should contact your child’s teacher(s) about grades and behavior whenever necessary–the key word here being necessary. Checking-in implies that you are having a conversation with your child about how he or she can improve. Checking-up on your child implies that the conversation is taking place primarily between parent and teacher–not involving the child.


There are times when the parent and teacher should discuss matters in the absence of the student. But approaching your child first will shed more light on the situation before speaking to the teacher. Again, this is all about responsibility and independence. Parents and teachers can only take a child so far–at some point, it becomes the child’s responsibility.


Praise the initiative


Loosening the grip is difficult for both parent and child. Up until this point, the parent has been the caretaker, advocate, cheerleader, homework checker, and teacher-whisperer. As your child is gaining more independence with age, is becomes your job to encourage their self-sufficiency.


Talk to your child about when, why, and how to approach teachers and coaches for extra help. Explain the importance of asking questions in class, seeking help, and emailing teachers for clarity. This can be scary, especially for those “green” middle school years. In elementary school, students had a comfort level with the one teacher that instructs all content areas. Now, they have to learn a whole new set of faces, personalities, and procedures for the many classes. This can be downright intimidating, but remind your child of this: teachers are just people who want to see them succeed.


Encourage your child to build a relationship with teachers so that they’ll feel more comfortable seeking help when necessary. Acknowledge a job well-done when your child meets with or emails a teacher herself. Discuss the positive feeling that comes when your child shows responsibility and independence.


Too much of a good thing


Your child will always be your baby–there is no denying that. However, as difficult as it may be, parents must learn to pass responsibility on to the student at some point. Children who have been micromanaged and hand-held throughout their academic years will suffer later on. These students likely expect things to come easily to them because “mom and dad always took care of it.” These students may also lack social tact because they never had to speak for themselves. This constant academic “spoon feeding” will result in a student that is dependent on someone else to clean up messes and solve problems.

The time will come when mom and dad will (hopefully) not be able to contact the college professors about how their child can improve a grade. There are no parent-professor conferences to discuss extra-credit opportunities. Encouraging academic autonomy now will serve your child well through all levels of education–and beyond.

Self-Esteem: Building a Strong Foundation

qualities-795867_1920February is National Boost Your Self-Esteem Month. Boosting one’s self-esteem is something that everyone has surely dealt with at some point. Even adults struggle with issues of self-esteem and self-worth from time to time. For teens, self-esteem, or the lack thereof, can greatly affect social and emotional development.

Merriam-Webster defines self-esteem as, “a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities; a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.” I consider self-esteem to be closely related to comfort level—how comfortable am I with my person as a whole? The tricky thing about self-esteem is that it can take decades to develop a strong sense of self-worth. Even then, once achieved, the comfort level is not concrete or guaranteed to last. Perhaps the most interesting thing about self-esteem is its plasticity or fluidity. Similarly to happiness, self-esteem can and will fluctuate throughout one’s life. You can be a happy person, and still experience low moments in the same manner that you can be a confident person, but still have periods of insecurity or low self-esteem.

This fluidity is especially important when discussing self-esteem with adolescents. The important thing to teach teens about self-image and confidence is that it can and will develop as we age. Furthermore, there are strategies that we can personally employ to build self-esteem.

Exercise positive self-talk: At any point throughout the day, teens are conversing with themselves using “self-talk.” This internal dialogue that we all employ from time to time has the ability to sway our moods and affect our self-perception. Almost like a chain reaction, what we think influences how we feel, which then influences how we behave. A teen that engages in negative self-talk is setting a self-fulfilling prophecy into motion. When people constantly put themselves down about their appearance or abilities, they orchestrate their own obstacles. Instead, encourage your child to engage in self-praise. Model that behavior by engaging in your own positive self-talk. Ask your child what he believes is his best personal trait. Ask him if he has any hidden talents or unique skills. Simply discussing the positives can alter your teen’s self-perception.

Discuss reasonable expectations: Self-esteem is more often compromised when we experience some sort of failure or rejection. It is important to talk through these disappointing moments with teens. Let your child know that failure is an important part of learning and growing that everyone experiences. Think of these moments as setbacks, an opportunity to simply begin again with more knowledge this time around. Also discuss the idea that perfection does not exist—there is no perfect athlete, artist, or musician. The perfect face and body are fantasies, as well. The idea is not to encourage your teen to aim low, but instead to prepare her to expect challenges in life. The more prepared your teen is to face challenges, the less she will internalize a set-back as a personal failure.

Defuse negative energy from others: Self-esteem can be greatly influenced by peers and others’ perceptions. This is especially true for adolescents, when fitting in and being socially accepted becomes more of a priority. No matter how much we want to deny or ignore it, other people’s words can greatly affect us. During adolescent years, when teens are most vulnerable and sensitive to peer pressure, teasing and other unkind gestures can compound the negative “self-talk.” When we hear others saying negative things about us, true or not, we may begin to question ourselves. Am I stupid like they say? Am I ugly like they claim? How can I be better so that others will like me? These types of questions arise when we internalize the negativity that others inflict on us. While we can’t control what other people say, we can control how we react to them. Teach your teen to ignore the negativity and focus more on his own feelings. Encourage teens to focus on the opinion that matters most—their own.

A fascinating aspect of self-esteem is the fact that we have some authority over it. In the same way that we work out to build and maintain muscle mass, we can shape our self-esteem. Yes, it takes time. It can be a lifelong process, but everything worth having requires time and effort. Talk to your teen about self-perception and self-esteem. The earlier that a child begins to feel confident in himself, and learns to maintain and build that confidence, the better.