An education expert spoke to a group of worried high school-age parents. His opening statement told them they did not have to worry because their children would turn out “just like them.” There was silence in the room after that statement.
While having high-quality teachers is an important ingredient to successful children, parental involvement plays a much bigger part since parents spend far more time working with and training their children both through conscious and unconscious instruction and role modeling.
What does it take to be successful in school and in life? For the last several decades, improving teachers and schools has been the focus. Schools have come under a great deal of scrutiny for underperforming. The question I raise is whether the education system can or should bear the full burden of student success when children are only in school 6.5 hours or so a day, five days a week.
Knowledge of how to read, write and calculate is important, but character traits like conscientiousness, resourcefulness, persistence, optimism and the ability to delay gratification play a far bigger role for success in adulthood. Those traits often come from children practicing and imitating their role models in the home. Research has shown over and over that interactions between children and their parents change children’s brains.
We know that graduation from college increases the potential earning power and personal satisfaction in life. Unfortunately, many students with high IQ scores often fail, not because they are dumb, but because they don’t have enough of the character traits listed above to finish their college educations. IQ only indicates the level of brightness in a student, not the level of success.
In order for students to become successful, fulfilled adults, parents need to place a priority on parenting and then follow through on that priority. This can be difficult in our multitasking, easily diverted, often single-parent culture.
Research shows that if there are a lot of books in the home and if the parents read a lot to their children (as well as role-model adult reading), the children are more apt to do well in school.
Studies also have shown that a high grade point average upon graduation from high school is the biggest determinant of being able to receive a four-year degree, no matter whether the adolescents attended a high-rated prep school, or a low-rated to mediocre school. The real measure for success is the development of skills and habits necessary to succeed in high school. Many of these habits are learned in the homes, not in school.
Americans have been very frustrated with the lack of progress on the part of schools and teachers to improve student scores and long-term success, but the real problem is not so much the schools, but the example that parents give their children and the priority placed on educating their children that matter so much more.
Successful adults come from parents spending time with their children from a very young age. This type of effort requires that parents think long-term, persist and are resourceful and optimistic in order for their children to exhibit those same traits when they finish their education. Parents need not worry about their children because more often than not, their children will turn out just like them.