Back to School (for Parents!)
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Written by Assoc Prof Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon, Clinical Psychologist and Founding President of the MSCP
Parental involvement with your child’s school is more than just attending PIBG (Persatuan Ibu Bapa dan Guru) meetings. Parents who are actively engaged with their child’s school and schoolwork can make a crucial difference to their child’s success academically, social and in life. Best of all, you will also feel a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction in making a difference in his education by using a hands-on approach.
The power of parental involvement
Little things such as getting him ready for school or attending school events show him that you value his education. Being involved helps improve his school attendance, have a positive attitude about school, make more friends, learn lessons better, have adaptive behaviour, and form a stronger relationship with you.
How to get involved?
Be curious about his interests and ideas about the world around him.
Set goals with him based on his ability and work together to achieve them. They can be both short- and long-term goals.
Spend quality one-on-one time with him to talk about his day at school, who his friends and teachers are, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes but be sure to give him 100% of your attention.
Revise his lessons together by asking him to teach you – this helps solidify his own understanding. With new changes to the syllabus compared to our school days, who knows if you might learn something yourself!
Fix a time for homework assignments and discuss them with him to see if he needs help. Ensure he is rewarded in some way for carrying out his work at the purported times.
Take note of his weaknesses for discussion with his class teacher at the appropriate time.
Inform his class teacher if there are any issues (e.g. health conditions, loss of a loved one, etc.) that may affect his school performance.
Be more active @ school
Some schools even offer opportunities for parents to be more actively involved. This includes turning up to support your child at school performances, sports day, canteen day, etc. Some schools encourage parents to volunteer for certain tasks, e.g. recycle day, canteen day, sports day, etc. Do check with the teachers to see how you can contribute your time.
One more important aspect that should not be neglected is the parent-teacher relationship. Focus on building a positive relationship with your child’s teacher. The relationship with his teacher is very important, so strive for a problem-solving partnership, even if you disagree with the teacher’s methods. When meeting his teacher, do so with the intention to collaborate to help your child. It is important to be consistent with the teacher at school in managing your child’s learning and behaviour. Getting confrontational and scolding/lecturing the teacher would only sour the relationship and may make things awkward for your child, especially if it was done in his presence.
Don’t become over-involved
Remember, you are your child’s most important partner in his education, so give him all the support he needs but not to the extent of doing everything for him. The goal is to encourage him to be more independent and learn how to do things on his own, not have him depend on you for everything, so let him pack his own school bag, do his homework or assignments (e.g. art or projects) on his own, etc.
Doing his homework or assignments with him may help in the short term with his grades, but in the long term, it will impede his resilience, as well as independent learning skills and experience as he is not the one doing them. Instead, he is likely to become dependent and helpless with low self-efficacy when he reaches late adolescence. Avoid helicopter parenting and give him the space he needs in order to flourish and grow. With the right encouragement, he will be able to go far as an adult. Make the extra effort to be involved now to reap the rewards in the long term. You are also a model for independence. So rather than do things for him, you show him how it’s done and let him go through the trials and errors where learning becomes more personalised to him.