In today’s world, there’s a lot of societal pressure for parents to make the “right” choices when it comes to their child’s education, after-school activities, nutrition, and sports. Yet study after study confirms: the “right” choice is simply being present and involved in your child’s life. By doing so, you create emotional stability and build self-esteem that can empower your child to succeed in all facets of life.
A research project by Sarah Bayliss (1984), involving third graders in England, included children whose parents participated in a “parent-involvement program,” found that the children from poor working class families closed the gap in education between themselves and their wealthier, upper-middle class counterparts. In fact, the pupils from the poor working class families, whose parents were involved and supported their children, outperformed those pupils from wealthier families – even those who were given private tutoring – from professionals. The only variable in this study was that the children from poorer families were spoiled by parents who were involved in their daily activities.
Another example is from The Missouri Project, a three-year study of 300 hundred families, in which Dr. Burton White demonstrated that children thrived when parents are taught about child development – including how to structure discipline without suppressing natural curiosity and the impulse to explore. The children whose parents were involved in the study also excelled in linguistic and cognitive abilities, and reached higher than average ranges by age three. As a result, Burton White’s study led to one of the most groundbreaking programs for parents interested in parental involvement in early education.
Because the Missouri Project convinced officials that parents were the most powerful force in early education, Missouri funded Parents as Teachers, an education and advocacy organization that helps organizations and professionals work with parents during the critical early years of their children’s lives to foster their growth and wellbeing. The longitudinal results of the P.A.T. programs, in California and Missouri, indicate that those children whose parents are actively involved in their nurturing and education from birth to age three score significantly higher than comparison children on almost all levels, including language, cognitive, social, and academic abilities.
Thus, if your child can look back and see you as she explores her world, or call for you and hear you, even as you cook or pay the bills, you create emotional stability. Your young explorer solidifies the progress made in each foray. The secure feeling that comes from strong bonding lowers anxiety, leading to strong self-esteem and emotional maturity – which is why your child will learn more at her mother’s knee than anywhere else. When children learn to trust their parents, they trust themselves. At no other point in your child’s life will be your presence be such a viable and invaluable gift.
The bottom line is that when you are present, emotionally available, and focused on your child, she is more likely to feel emotionally secure. Emotionally secure children do better at everything: they focus more effectively, stick to problemsolving longer, and extend beyond the borders of their knowledge with ease. The very support that encourages your child’s self-motivation and his ability to take calculated risks also contributes to that which helps him learn rapidly and work well with others.
When you understand the developmental stages of childhood and how to support your child through them, you can best support your child’s intellectual, social, and emotional growth. Therefore, the most important ingredient to ensure the successful execution of this process is not only you, but also the environment that only you can create. This is how your child reaches and even pushes beyond the perceived boundaries of his potential.
In my next post we’ll look at the kind of environment we can create as parents to foster our children’s growth.