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Parent Involvement Versus Parent Interference in Schools

by Flora Richards-Gustafson

A child’s first teacher is her parent, so it’s natural for the parent to have the desire to play a role in that child’s education. The benefits to a parent’s active involvement in a child’s education are multiple and include improved student performance and the development of learning skills, according to Kathleen Hoover-Dempsey in the U.S. Department of Education’s “Handbook on Family and Community Engagement.” When overzealous parents cross the line and begin interfering in schools, the effects could last well into adulthood.

What Parental Involvement Looks Like

Parental involvement in schools differs depending on a child’s age. In elementary school, for example, a teacher may seek volunteers to help with a holiday party or a school carnival. As a child gets into middle and high school, parents may have fewer roles in the classroom, but still assist with field trips and events that need chaperones. Parental involvement that spans through a child’s primary and secondary education includes parent-teacher conferences, open houses, parent-teacher associations and even helping a child with homework. Because of the numerous positive effects of parental engagement for children and the community, the National PTA, in the article “Overcoming Obstacles to Parent Involvement,” recommends that schools create a parent center to encourage family involvement.

The Benefits of Parental Involvement

When parents are involved in a child’s school, a child’s social competence, behavior and academic performance improve. The publication “Parent Involvement in School Conceptualizing Multiple Dimensions and Their Relations with Family and Demographic Risk Factors” by Gwynne O. Kohl, Liliana J. Lengua, and Robert J. McMahon on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website, shares that a parent who sees himself as his child’s teacher is more likely get involved in the child’s school by supporting education at home, volunteering, communicating progress, helping with homework and being an active member of the community. The authors of that publication found that the quality of a parent’s involvement directly relates to a child’s academic outcomes more than the amount of teacher-parent contact. In addition to benefiting children, parental involvement helps improve teacher morale and the quality of the school.

Signs of Parental Interference

Involvement turns into interference when a parent is quick to question a teacher’s decisions, expects special attention for her child or fills a teacher’s inbox or voicemail with complaints and concerns. In his article “Parental Control” on the National Education Association website, Tim Walker states that dealing with interfering parents can be more difficult for teachers than maintaining order in a classroom. An overzealous, interfering parent tends to seek immediate results from educators and is less likely to trust the public school system because of the mentality that she knows what’s best for her child.

The Effects of Parental Interference

While parental interference can create hardships for teachers, it’s the children who display the lasting effects. In a 2007 University of Minnesota parent newsletter, the article “Walking the Fine Line: When Does Parent Involvement Become Parent Interference?” the school warns that parental interference can promote poor problem-solving skills in a child. By taking on the role as a fixer instead of listener, supporter and mentor, a parent may hinder a child’s ability to problem-solve, practice autonomy and work independently as a child, teen and adult. Karin Kasdin’s article in the Huffington Post, entitled “Helicopter Parents Interfering with Adult Children's Work and Professional Lives,” explains how children of interfering parents have allowed the behavior to extend past the classroom and into the workforce, thus negatively impacting professional opportunities.

Photo Credits

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