Getting involved can help your child to grow and learn.

The Differences Between Parent Involvement and Parental Interference in Education

by Erica Loop

If you think that the time when you took over your 4 year old's class and began to lecture the kiddos on why not sharing is bad was the highlight of the teacher's day, think again. While most early childhood educators encourage parents to participate, there is a fine line between parent involvement and parental interference when it comes to education.

1. Parent Involvement

Parent involvement in education includes participation-type activities in the classroom as well as help at home. In-school involvement during the early childhood years typically means that you go into your little one's class and help the teacher with an activity such as reading, a project such as arts and crafts or even a special event such as the preschool Valentine's Day party. At-home practices involve talking about what your child did at school, doing take-home work -- this isn't the same as homework for an older child and focuses more on parent-child activities -- or simply providing encouragement through praise.

2. Parental Interference in the Classroom

When parents cross the line from participating to hijacking classroom activities, parental interference happens. Unlike the positive participation that involvement includes, interference is a more negative form of joining into classroom activities. Interference may include talking over the teacher in front of the children, stopping the early childhood educator from teaching, focusing class activities on you or your beliefs instead of what the teacher is planning or showing up unannounced. For example, getting involved may mean that you go to your child's preschool to chaperone the class holiday party after the teacher asks for volunteers. On the other hand, interfering means that you show up at the class holiday party -- even though all of the volunteer positions were already taken -- and decide to do your own crafts and games with the kids.

3. The Child's Education

Parental interference doesn't just occur on the classroom level. It's also possible for parents to interfere on the individual child's level. This type of interference, also known as helicopter parenting, includes hovering over your child and assuming all of his responsibilities. While this is somewhat more understandable in the early years when children are more reliant on adults, your young child is developing a sense of independence that he needs to exercise on his own. Some ways that a parent may interfere with her child's education include doing work or craft projects for the child or disputing how the teacher interacts with him. For example, your child is tasked with creating a collage of magazine cut-outs at home. Instead of getting involved and adding a helping hand, you take over the project do the entire thing by yourself.

4. Child's View

Before interfering in your child's early education, consider what she thinks of your over-involvement. While your 4 year old may seem over-the-moon when you come in to read to her class on occasion, does she really want you in the room every day of the week? The educational environment of preschool or day care is your child's domain. Visiting periodically to help out is completely acceptable -- if not desirable -- when it comes to your child's school day. That said, constant interference may squash her school style or make her less likely to socialize with other people.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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