Parental Involvement in School Has Its Limits

Overprotective moms and dads need to learn when to let go, expert says

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FRIDAY, Sept. 19, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- While it can be a good thing for parents to advocate on behalf of their children, there's a point where children need to assume that role for themselves, says a Saint Louis University School of Medicine expert.

"That's the only way kids will be able to learn the skills they'll need to take care of themselves when they become adults," Dr. Ken Haller, an associate professor of pediatrics, said in a university news release.

He noted that overprotective parents are nothing new, but today's parents feel more empowered to question the authority of teachers, coaches and other adults who play major roles in children's lives.

"Questioning is not bad, as long as parents are willing to listen, and there is true dialogue. When it results in uncompromising demands, however, it can become a real barrier to the child's maturity and self-reliance," Haller said.

He offered the following advice for parents:

  • Encourage children to discuss their problems but allow them to develop their own solutions. Problem solving helps children learn and grow.
  • Don't start disputes over your child's grades, discipline, placement on a team or squabbles with friends. Instead, parents should help children deal with problems by asking them what should be done and offering possible solutions.
  • When children are doing homework, be available to answer questions and clarify instructions. Don't give the answers or do the homework yourself, even it the assignment seems too difficult.
  • Respect teachers' schedules by making appointments and using e-mail. If you want to be involved at school, ask your child's teacher how you can contribute to the classroom.
  • Teach children to respect the authority of teachers and coaches. It's OK to question teachers and coaches, but don't criticize them, break their rules, or make excuses for your child.
  • Children should be held accountable and have to deal with the consequences of their actions. By middle school, children should be responsible for bringing homework home, studying, and turning in their assignments.
  • If you believe your child is the victim of bullies or peer pressure, discuss it with your child and try to help your child develop appropriate responses. Try not to interfere at school unless your child is in danger.
  • A parent's job is to prepare children to be responsible and capable adults. Decrease your involvement over time and let your child live his or her own life.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers positive parenting tips.

SOURCE: Saint Louis University Medical Center, news release, September 2008

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