On November 19, 2011 Thomas L. Friedman wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times entitled, How about Better Parents? Mr. Friedman’s main thesis focuses on better parenting as the route to improve the academic success of American students. His opinion is based on the reported research of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). According to Friedman, PISA found that adolescents scored better on an assessment when they had a history of being read to earlier in their schooling and had engaged parents.
While this may not be a new opinion, it is important to recognize that successful children often have a history of at least one strong, nurturing and supportive relationship. Although these relationships may not always be the parent-child relationship, children often can recognize who the person was that made them feel safe, secure and able to achieve. As a parent, what should you take away from this article? It is not about what you are reading to your child in Kindergarten that matters for future success. Rather it seems that living in the present moment and spending time reading to your child has an impact. Relationships matter most and the more we understand the profound influence relationships have on our children’s development the better we will prepare our children to compete in an increasingly competitive world.
Many parents will argue that our culture and economy do not support building the caregiver-child relationship in early life. This may be true. Compared to some other countries we have abysmal child-care choices, poor maternity leave options, and an economy that is stressing us. Relationships seemingly appear to be at the bottom of our government’s priority list and clearly, if we are to compete, this should change. This lack of support makes a parent’s job harder and yet that much more important. Everyday parents have a choice and to abdicate that choice to other professionals and educators may not, according to this research, be in our children’s long-term best interest.