Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter is in 2nd grade at a wonderful school, and we get a lot of email asking for parent volunteers to help out in the classroom or to do cleanups, fundraising, and other stuff to help the school. Almost all of that email is directed at mothers and makes a special point of explaining how important it is for mothers to take an active role in their kids’ education. As a really involved, hands-on kind of dad, this really bugs me. I want to complain to the school, but I’d like to bring in some evidence that shows that it’s important for dads to be involved too. Can you help?
There’s no shortage of studies that prove that parents—meaning mom and dad—make a difference. In fact, the more parents are involved, the better the kids do. Unfortunately, far too many schools use the word “parents” as a synonym for “moms.” Ignoring dads this way—even if it’s unintentional—does more damage than simply shortchanging our children. Need proof? When dads get involved, they’re sending a clear message that they care about their kids and value education. Their children, in turn …
• Have better problem-solving skills, are more persistent and more confident, and are more interested in exploring the world around them.
• Tend to do better on standardized tests, have better math and verbal scores, and score higher on IQ- and other intelligence tests.
• Perform better in school and have more fun while they’re there. About half of kids with involved dads get mostly As, compared to only about a third when dads are not involved. In fact, dad’s level of involvement is a better predictor than mom’s that a child will get top grades.
• Are half as likely to have ever repeated a grade (7 percent vs. 15 percent for children of less-involved dads), according to a survey sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
• Are nearly half as likely to have ever been suspended (10 percent vs. 18 percent for kids of less-involved dads).
• Are more likely to be involved in extracurricular activities. On average, children who have interests outside of school have fewer behavior problems and are less likely to get involved with drugs or alcohol or become teen parents than those with no outside activities.
• Are more likely to become responsible adults, have fulfilling careers, and are have solid marriages.
Pretty impressive, right? Better still, these wonderful benefits from father involvement happen whether the dad is married, single, a step-father, an adoptive father, or lives with his children or not, according to University of Illinois researcher Brent A. McBride.
And that’s just the beginning! When dads are involved in their children’s schools, the dads themselves…
• Tend to be more involved at home.
• Learn a lot of great stuff. The NCES study found that when parents are actively involved in their kids’ schools, they “are more likely to visit museums and libraries, participate in cultural activities with their children, and have high educational expectations for them.”
• Feel more confident and more important as parents. Being involved in their children’s school helps dads understand that they’re just as important in their children’s lives as moms are.
Last but not least, schools benefit from father involvement too. Involved parents tend to have a higher opinions of teachers and give them more support. Not surprisingly, teacher morale is higher and the schools have a better reputations in the community.
So next time you get an email asking for moms to volunteer, send back a link to this column. Then, call up a few other dads and make sure you’re first in line.
Originally Published on Mr. Dad
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