Listen to your children to help them have academic success

Jul 24, 2008 at 12:02 p.m. ET

Children whose parents listen to their perspective and encourage them to make decisions do better in school -- both academically and socially.

A study published in the Journal of Personality found that parents who provide their preschoolers with choices and encourage them to take on responsibilities were helping their children in the long run. This pattern of parenting called "autonomy supportive" was shown to lead to high academic and social adjustment in eight-year-olds.

Teacher reports and standardized tests showed that this flexible and responsive parenting technique that focused on the child's perspective, explaining the rationale for requests, providing choices, and not using controlling language lead to better outcomes. "Autonomy support was found to increase the odds of children being both high in social and academic adjustment, as well as high in both social adjustment and in reading achievement," the authors state.

The results held true regardless of socio-economic status, gender or IQ.

The study interviewed the mothers of five-year-olds to measure the level of autonomy support and other parenting dimensions. Three years later, the study looked at the children's social adjustment and achievement in reading and math in grade three. "Maternal autonomy support measured in kindergarten was positively associated with social adjustment, academic adjustment and reading achievement in third grade," the authors cite as their most important finding.

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