When Parents Do Too Much

With the school year about half over, parents are probably taking a deep breath and asking themselves: Am I doing enough for my children's education?

With all the talk of improving education with state tests and better teachers, more needs to be said about the crucial role of parents. So how are parent-educators doing?

Some, ironically, may be doing too much. A case in point: science fair projects, which are mandatory in some school districts and are typically being assigned right about now.

These projects can range from simple to complex. The work can hint at budding genius, or simply exhibit a readiness to follow through on an idea. Both traits are admirable. What's less admirable is an eager mom's or dad's work passed off as their offspring's. This, sadly, is a frequent problem.

The motive, no doubt, can seem positive - a parent's intense desire to see a child succeed, or even just complete something. And the impulse can stretch beyond science projects to math homework or reading projects.

All pose a dilemma to parents: How much help is too much?

There's no one answer to that. Some kids require more help, but every youngster needs to feel the pride of accomplishment. Adults should never undermine that by taking over. And every youngster needs the experience of falling short and learning how to revise and do better. Character often springs from adversity.

Of course, parents play an indispensable role - encouraging, talking over assignments, and offering suggestions. But learning takes place only when children discover something about their own inner resources.

Parents should be asking themselves how they're doing as education reformers. And the test is not whether their children get A's, but whether they are engaged in learning.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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