HomeHealth & BehaviorEmotional Well-Being

What makes a great parent?

Students and their schools benefit from supportive parents. Here are 10 ways to support your child and the school.

By GreatSchools Staff

Successful kids and successful schools usually share a secret ingredient: supportive parents! This means the time you spend helping at school also boosts your child's chances for success.

Students and their schools both rely on parents to help them be their best. Students need a supportive atmosphere for learning at home and someone to advocate for them at school. In these days of shrinking budgets and increasing demands on teachers, many schools cannot provide everything students need without help from parents.

In today's busy world, it is easy for parents to focus their time and energy on activities that directly benefit their own kids, and avoid getting involved with larger school activities and issues. Luckily you do not need to make a choice between helping the school and helping your child. Recent studies show that the children of parents who are involved in schools do better academically.

Here are 10 ways you can be involved in your child's education. Some support your child directly and others benefit the whole school, including your child. Remember, you don't have to do everything! Choose the activities that fit your interests and schedule.

1. Make sure your children go to school ready to learn.  In the morning scramble to get out the door on time, your children may skip breakfast or leave homework behind. The day gets off to a much better start if they pack their backpacks the night before, get plenty of rest and have a good breakfast.

2. Make time for homework.  Set up a study area with good lighting and a dictionary, and limit television on weeknights to be certain homework gets done. Make reading an everyday habit. Children who have "no homework" can always review the day's lessons or read a book for fun.

You may also need to curtail extracurricular activities and, as your children grow older, limit part-time jobs. Children who take part in other nonacademic activities for 20 or more hours per week usually don't have enough energy to perform optimally in school.

3. Monitor your children's academic progress.  Don't wait until report cards come out to check up on how your children are doing. Attend scheduled parent-teacher conferences to get acquainted with their teachers, and don't hesitate to contact teachers at other times to find out whether your children are keeping up with assignments.

4. When there's a problem, work with the school on your child's behalf.  If your child starts to slip academically, make an appointment with the teacher to put together a plan for correcting the problem. Teachers appreciate parents who reinforce the importance of schoolwork, and your child will have a better chance of succeeding if you and the teacher agree on a strategy.

If your child has difficulties with a teacher, try to keep an open mind and find out all the facts before jumping to conclusions. It's always best to try to work out differences with teachers before going over their heads and complaining to the principal.

5. Attend school functions.  Going to back-to-school night, the spring concert, school plays, talent shows and other school events shows your children that you value their schools. In a 10-year study of 20,000 teenagers, Laurence Steinberg found that only one-fifth of parents regularly attended school functions, and that those who did were much more likely to have high-achieving students.

In addition to communicating to children that school is important, Steinberg writes in Beyond the Classroom, "Attending school functions may be even more important for the message it communicates to teachers and other school personnel. Teachers cannot help but pay closer attention to students whose parents they encounter at school programs, for both positive and negative reasons. On the positive side, the added attention stems from a sort of halo effect — Susie's parents are interested in her education, so Susie must be, too. But the attention also stems from the teacher's knowledge that Susie's parents are the sort of parents who are more likely to take action if something in Susie's education is not going right."

Comments from readers

"Another great resource is a book, Parenting Adolescents by Kevin Huggins. It revolutionized how I parenting by two kids. "
"I believe that parents need to be in their child's life emotionally and educationally. "
"I am very concerned my son starts school this year and my husband is very against schools he feels they don't teach like they use too. If he could he would homeschool and I really feel my son has been home bound since he was born, I am disabled so I really cant do mant things. So I want him to be able to go and socialize and be with people. I am struggling so hard. "
"A good parent is the parent that stay involve with his or her child education, and school work and stand in the gap to help in the school."
"hi im a pto vise president that just started for cpe college prep elementary and it hard to pull up ideal and what kind of help i cant do to start getting parent to come to pto meet every month please help so i know how to do this pto meet and how to start funds for the school to do great ideal to help the student for our children at our school."
"I know it's very important to be a part of your child's education."
"Hello, I have recently moved back from NJ to mumbai India and I cannot say how much i miss and appreciate the system of education in US.My 5 yr old was exposed to a beautiful systematic and rich educational environment.We wish to make this experience inspire us to reach US standards wherever we may be. We were part of the recession and lost an opportunity in US but what we gained immeasurable knowledge and respect for system of the united states.SAALAM OBAMA Sheetal(mother of 2)"
"Very relevant article for families when both parents work. Sometimes only one parent works but has skills and capabilities to educate his offspring(s) beyond the school program. Relationship with child could be fantastic as happned in my case. Unfortunately my wife did not appreciated and started a meaningless procedure to split the family. I have five advanced degrees taken in op Universities like the London School of Economics and Univ. of Penn in Philadelphia. I wanted my child be bilingual and taught him English since birth. When he was five y.o. he spontaneously started to speak English with mated in U.S. Sincerely, Nino from Italy."
"I'm a single parent,36,and my son is starting Highschool next year.He is totally in to baseball,but doesn't show any interest in anything else.I'm a Dad not a mom I don't have natural instincts on how to do what Mom's do.Please tell me how to get him interested in other things Mom's.Thank you"
"This a wonderful article for suggestions. what do you do if you are doing all of the ten listed suggestions plus many more and your child is still doing poorly.... what are your suggestions after that? Ive spoken with teacher, counselor, 504 personell, school board, etc. I am running out of options, because it really appears to me that know one is willing to do anything EXTRA to help. If it can't be covered in a typical school day, teachers are not willing to go the extra mile with helping afterschool, or before school the way teachers cared when I was a childs"
"parents must definately show interest in their kids studies so that the child can uderstand the importance of their education.Also parents should strive their best to create a positive attitude within their children towards learning and make their kids develop a passion towards learning and not see it as a punishment.The above steps on your page are also great in making a great parent!!"
"This all sounds great if it was really true. Yes it hels to have set times for study,no going out on school nights get pleanty of rest.Good breakfast.What happens though when you have a teacher that has no control over a class. Students texing on their phones, talking, using language that belongs in the gutter. This is not a good place or way to sudy. Maybe sone one needs to stop in these classes to see what is going on. Your artical is a very good one and I just wish it could be all this way thank you for the time to give feed back."
"I agree with the president totally, as a grandparent I am attempting to provide back up support for my grandchildren."
"I like this site. It has lots of helpful things I did not know about. I had never heard of your site until this week. Bellaonline has this school reform site and she wrote an article about how you can grade your school, and how to find out other stuff. I really cant believe how much I didnt know. Karen"
"Without parent involvement at the schools, schools fail. We need more parents to be proactive in the schools, not just complaining. Help us teachers out by volunteering in the school or classroom. Read at least 20 minutes to your child or have your child read 20 minutes to you every day. We need better reading. Something I practice for over 200 minutes in a day to get reading capabilties up is to have reading groups with parent involvement. Parents stop working against teachers and start working with us!"
"what a bunch of malarky ~ what about giving money to corporate criminals rather than to schools for more programs and better teachers?"
"This note is a response to the parent whose children do not perform well on test. If your children think that they are not good test takers and a lot of attention is given to this fact, it's likely that they get so worked up about it that it enables them and they lack the confidence to know that they can do well. Maybe you can ask a teacher or you yourself give them mock test often. Really letting them know that the result doesn't matter. They need to have success at performing well so they'll know they can do it. I have a good friend who did not test well. We studied together so I Know she knew the material. But she would get so anxious that she couldn't sleep or didn't sleep well (1st problem), then she would not eat that morning (stomach too anxious - 2nd problem), and then she would take the test and second guess herself into a D or F because she lacked confidence. "
"Here is the irony: the parents who visit your website and read your articles no doubt do all of what this article so rightfully suggests, and more. They even try to set a good example to ALL the kids they encounter by doing all that they do. The problem lies with the many (majority, depending upon the school) parents who do NONE of these things. They send their kids to school with none of this essential support. Quite often these children are the source of classroom and playgoround conflict, continual disuption, learning slow downs, etc. So the real challenge is not to advise all the good parents on what they are already doing, but to figure out a means by which ALL parents have to take responsibility to some degree, for the children they bring into the world and send to our schools. That is the essential problem of our era."
"'My son is in 10th grade in Castro Valley High School Protect and Love your childrem. Tell them everyday how much you Love them and how Wonderful they are. PROTECT THEM. Tell them to try their Best Everyday, whether win or lose, it doesn't matter....the results are not the most is that they tried their best. Life and School are a learning process. They and We as parents, will not aways have all the right answers or are we suppose to. Love will conquer all. They need to know we are there for them win or lose, and good or bad. and will always stand by them and protect them. This is so very important for a child to know. Take action to protct them, whatver it need be. Remove bad influences from their lives. Put them in music, dance, art, classes. Things that will bringforth positive influences. I do also recommend Charter schools. 'Parent Choice Schools'. They are great as well. I beleive public schools can be detrimental to a childs emotional health and well bei! ng. School administrators are usually callous and take advantage of the students that they know they can and that theor paremts have Zero invovement in their childs education. Beleive this happens all the time. The schools can be bullies and sometimes you have to call them on it and confront them and insure your childs well being. All the animals in the kingdom, Lions, Gorillas, Bears, etc. all nurture their children, would die for their children and teach their children the skills to survive. I am a firm beleiver that 'Bad' 'sad' 'Lost' 'Mean', etc. chldren are products of their parents. Your children are your first and most important priority. Don't embaress them, DON'T nsult them. Praise them, Spoil them, Play with them, LOVE THEM!!!!!!"
"Please add Beyond the Bakesale to your list of books!"
"My child currently a student at PS. 156 got jump this morning today 1/30/08 on his way to the bathroom nobody had the good sense to call me or send a note. I just started to use the system all I've got from day one is nothing aggrevation. What should I do to keep my child safe."
"I am a former member of AmeriCorps. AmericCorps is an organization which focuses on students. The company places volunteers in schools to tutor students in reading and other levels of education. I can really tell a difference in which students have parents that are focused on their educational needs and which students do not have that support. It is very important that a parent spends time teaching their child after they come home. Alot of parents say that their child goes to school five days a week for 8 to 10 hours a day, and they deserve a break when they are at home. That is true, but a parent can make time for learning. They can make it fun for the child. Take one hour, maybe after bath time, and play an educational game. Even having the child read the bedtime story is making time for education. I can go on and on about the importance of teaching outside of school as well as in school."
"I am a single father who lives 40 miles from his son' school. I have never missed a teachers conference and since his current school teachers use the internet to communicate with parents, I'm always involved with my son's homework and assignments. I know about his results at times before he does. Many of my son's teachers have directly communicated to me how much they appreciate that I'm actively involved in my son's education. For a father that has fought to have a life with his son and be in his life, that comment means more to me than than anything except what my son wrote this summer in my birthday card, its says 'You're the best Dad in the whole world'..... "
"I am a single mother of six beautiful,healthy and intelligent children. Who all know how to respect themselves and others and do so. They have made me the proudest and luckiest parent I know. I have always put my all into raising them with good morals and values and the life scills they will need to carry with them throughout their lives, to not only survive but to succeed. Their education and my involvment in that part of their lives, at home and at their schools has always existed. I have contacted, confronted, observed and assisted MANY teachers/principles throughout these years. I do not hesitate to go to bat for my children when needed and always enjoyed the years of volunteering in their schools and classrooms. My oldest son graduated last year, his brother graduates tomorrow and not only made the honor roll, but pulled off straight A's and perfect attendance. There is an 11th, 9th, 8th and 6th grader. Five boys and one girl. They all AMAZE me!! This post would be too! long if I mentioned their accomplishments and acheivements. Mostly what I guess I want to say is to all the parents that think it is silly or unnecessary for us parents to be there at their schools and at the parent/teachers conferences, to think again. Be physically present in some form or another at your children's schools and available/involvled with them on field trips, with homework or in whatever way best works for you both. One of the most important and crucial things I have learned as a parent is this: We NEED to listen to our children and hear what they are saying when they talk to us. And to talk to them. And I believe that when that is no longer there for them, they stop coming to us. And who could care more about them and what challenges they face than us.....their parents. I don't mind if you post this, but please don't post my e-mail address. Thank you"
"I am just learning about this very valuable website. Thanks to all of those who takes the time to make a difference. I am learning alot from the comments posted."
"One thing I learned is you submit an email to the school, and an answer is never submitted back to the originator. These people don't take the time to respond yet they want for you to get involved in the activities at their school. So far I have emailed three times, and so far no responce from the person being emailed too. This tells me no one takes the time to read their email, so why have it in the first place. Who pays for it?"
"My son is in 10th grade in Castro Valley High School. He is extremely bright which makes it difficult to make friends his own age due to extreme difference in discussing global issues instead of who is going with who to the dance type of issues. In the past 5 months has made a new set of friends (4 including him in this group) that have influenced his mindset. Cutting themselves, depression and lots of anger is their game. Just found out one of the girls has been showing these behaviors since 5th grade and is also OCD! I'm ready to pull him out of this school and move out of the area to save my son. Any advice? This is something I've never experienced w his 20 year old brother or any family or friends kids. Yes he is in therapy, but I can tell I'm losing this battle. I'm sure I am not the first parent (I am a single working mom, dad is not in picture much. high middle income. ) to experience this and would greatly appreciate any and all information you have that can give me sound realistic advice and guidance. FYI I have the school invloved, County Youth Counseling , other kids parents (which seem to be part of the problem) but I am feeling that even with all this, I'm losing the battle. I've taken a leave of absence from my job to be home when he gets out of school, evening and weekends. But it during school time that his anger explodes and the antics take place. He has missed too much school, near failing grades and he is just too angry and sad for a child of 16. Breaks my heart and I need HELP! Thank you for your time and any information you can provide to me. You can certainly post this message as I am sure there are other parents who need help but are not asking for it like I am. Please do not post my email address. "
"thanks for all the help and ideas you gave me to help my son at school "
"I do all the above but yet my children both are poor test takers and I have yet to have a teacher at their school be able to help them or anyone at their school for that fact. I have studied with my kids through 7th grade every which way I know how to and yet they still do not do well. My kids seem to usually hold a 3.0 GPA or above both 6th and 7th grade. This year the grading is heavier on tests then their homework and special projects so we will see where they stand. If you have any suggestion I would love to hear them."
"I am an educator and my son attends the same school. I want my peers to know it is difficult for the student and the educator. Conduct meetings with the parent/educator during afterschool hours. I walk down the hall and hear other students trying to tell me about my son. I ask the students would they want me to tell their mom about every offense they commit? Also educators refrain from sny remarks about student's parents in front of other students because it is just very unprofessional! Sorry....just had to make it known. "
"For the teacher looking for volunteers in the classroom. I would write a newsletter to the parents. Explain what is going on in school and what they could do to help.Explain what is needed as a parent to make the school a success. Give them a check list, this will let you know what the parent is willing to do. Example: What days could they help, and for how many hours, are they willing to go on field trips, do they like to read in large or small groups, are they willing to purchase items for the class room, make copies, and the list goes on. Get the parents phone # and make calls to them if you need help with something. In the school my daughter attends, I volunteer. I make copies, I buy zipper lock bags for the teacher, I buy glue sticks, i read to the kids, and a whole slew of other things. I also work ful-time. My pay back, teacher appreciation, my daughters sat9 test scored off the charts, my daughter loves school, its great to get hugs from the kids when you see them out in public, and even now that this is a new school year, I have a great relationship with her old teacher I still go into her class room and talk to her just like any friend. This school loves its volunteers, and on the web site, I would say there are about 50-60 volunteers through the grades K-4. If you can round up two or three dependable parents that is all you need. "
"I second the comments of a previous poster. My child's school's PTA is a powerful group that outwardly encourages newcomers and new ideas, but upon joining, I discovered the group wasn't really interested in new ideas or new voices. The meetings I attended were meetings where 'the queens' of the group tooted the PTA horn over accomplishments, then went about the business of deciding what they were going to do about 'this' and 'that' with little or no input from the rest of us. I felt very useless and decided to support the school on my own instead of attending PTA meetings. I do believe in the power of strong parental involvement. "