Q: My child’s school often sends out emails asking for moms to volunteer in the classroom or around the school. A lot of these communications talk about how important it is for mothers to be involved in their children’s education. As a father, I find this a little annoying, and I’m wondering whether you know of any evidence that dads’ involvement is important too?
A: There’s a mountain of research that shows a direct connection between parents’ involvement in their children’s education and their kids’ performance in school. In short, the more the parents are involved, the better the kids do. But in many schools (and in many families), the word “parents” really means “mom.” That’s a big mistake. There are a number of benefits that are specifically related to father involvement.
When dads are involved, their children:
- Do better in school and enjoy it 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. Those children who aren’t doing as well in school tend to be less anxious about it than those with uninvolved dads. Interestingly, the chances that children will get top grades has more to do with dad’s level of involvement than mom’s.
- Are half as likely to have ever repeated a grade (7 percent vs. 15 percent for children of less-involved dads), according to a national survey sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
- Are much less likely to have ever been suspended (10 percent vs. 18 percent for kids of less involved dads).
- Are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities. And children who are involved in extracurricular activities have fewer behavior problems and are less likely to get involved with drugs or alcohol or become teen parents.
- Grow up to be higher-performing, more responsible adults and are more likely to have solid marriages.
- Are more interested in exploring the world around them, are more confident, and have better problem-solving skills.
- Tend to do better on standardized tests, have better math and verbal scores, and have higher IQs.
- Get a clear message that you care about them and value education.
Interestingly, according to University of Illinois researcher Brent A. McBride, these wonderful benefits from father involvement happen whether the dad is married, single, a step father, and adoptive father, lives with his children or not. Overall, that’s pretty convincing, don’t you think? But wait, there’s more.
When dads are involved in their children’s schools, the dads themselves:
- Tend to be more involved at home and vice versa.
- 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 important in their children’s lives. Being involved in their children’s schools helps dads understand that they’re just as important to their children as moms are.
And finally, schools benefit from father involvement too. Teacher morale is higher and they get more support from families, parents have a higher opinion of the teachers, and the schools have better reputations in community. So next time you get an email asking for moms to volunteer, send back a copy of this column. Then, grab a couple of other dads and make sure you’re first in line.