Malala Yousafzai is a girl who has profoundly affected millions of people around the world. You may have heard of her. Last year Malala was shot in the head in a failed assassination attempt by the Taliban in Pakistan. She was only 15.
Malala was shot because she stood up for her right, as a female, to have an education.
Malala’s story is tragic, and inspiring. As I have watched Malala’s story unfold on a global platform during the past 12 months, I have wondered whether Australian children would value their education as highly as did Malala.
My research has uncovered four family processes we can adopt to create an environment that will contribute to our children’s academic commitment and success. For parents who are committed to making their home a place where their children can succeed academically, this research is for you.
Research tells us that when parents have goals and expectations about education for their children, their children are likely to live up to them. This requires:
- teaching children to build on their successes and learn from their failures
- an optimistic perspective with a focus on being able to do hard things
- having courage to tackle big goals
- a belief in ‘can’ (versus can’t)
- recognition that adversity is normal and gives us an opportunity to learn.
In short, parents who teach their children that challenge is good, and encourage them to adopt a positive, confident approach to education (exams, projects, etc), promote beliefs and expectations that contribute to their children’s academic success. Those children are more likely to work hard, believe that they can ‘do it’, and have a sense of purpose attached to their education – or a ‘why’.
It is well-established that children who are stressed, anxious, or sad struggle to learn effectively. Similarly, children dealing with fear, anger, or resentment don’t take much in. Research shows that when we provide a warm, caring, collaborative, respectful climate in the home, our children feel secure and confident – and their learning and academic outcomes improve.
Furthermore, families who focus on fairness and share decision-making seem to have children who thrive educationally. This may be because of the clear communication, empathy, and shared feelings these processes promote.
Children learn best when they are secure. Beyond warmth and closeness, there is little that promotes feelings of security as much as predictability. Researchers have found that families where there are clear expectations and leadership shown by parents are families where children perform better academically. Specifically, parents should:
- Be on the same page in relation to goals, objectives, discipline practises, and expectations for their children’s academic (and life) performance
- Promote discipline with clear and realistic guidelines and boundaries for their children (which helps them regulate themselves in the classroom)
- Maintain routine
- Make sure the children have regular responsibilities
- Build a supportive network with family and friends (for parents and children)
Finally, we give our children the best chance at academic success when we develop family routines that support our children’s scholastic achievement. We do this by:
- Monitoring our children’s academic activities, projects, exams, and reports
- Promoting enriching learning activities like reading, and extra-curricular activities
- Having regular conversations with the children about how school is going and how they’re tracking in relation to long-term goals
- Doing school work together
- Being excited and positive about their progress and development
Education is the key to social mobility. It is how those who are less privileged can rise above the financial circumstances they were born into. As Australians, we are fortunate to live in a country where education is a right.
In spite of this, too many of our children are not getting the education they should. Research shows that we, as parents, make a significant contribution to the educational successes our children experience by the way we guide our families. By making education a focus and priority, keeping our family close and functioning, providing an environment that is conducive to learning, and setting appropriate limits for our children in all areas of their lives, we give them the best shot at an education that can take them where they most want to go.