Setting out to challenge students

Published 7:58 am Tuesday, March 20, 2018

“No significant learning happens without a significant relationship.” – James Comer

Jennifer Lawhead

Executive Director Austin Aspires

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Research conducted by the Search Institute has identified family relationships as a key factor in children’s academic success. This data revealed five key actions in creating closely bonded relationships within the family: Express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities.

Austin Aspires, in collaboration with Austin Public and Pacelli Catholic Schools, has administered Search Institute’s REACH survey to students in grades fith, seventh, and ninth in our community. This survey has questions related to student “spark,” motivation, and the parent-child relationship.

In the months to come we will share specific ideas about how to enhance the parent child relationship with suggestions from the Search Institute and other resources. The information shared below highlights each of the five categories and includes data from our survey.

It is important to note that this data is from the child’s point of view. What we have found is that perception is reality. If a child THINKS you have a warm and positive relationship, then they reap the benefits of a positive relationship.

Another way to state the idea behind “express care” is to show your child that you like them and want the best for them. Concrete ways that children “hear” this message is when adults listen, exhibit warmth, invest time and energy, show interest, and are dependable. Currently 85 pecent of Austin students indicate that their parents express care.

When we talk about challenging growth in students this means insisting that children continuously improve. Parents should inspire, expect them to live up to their potential, stretch and strengthen their thoughts and abilities, and provide limits and hold them accountable. Eighty-one percent of students in Austin feel that their parents do indeed challenge them to grow.

Helping children complete tasks and achieve goals is how we can provide support. Encouraging, guiding, modeling and advocating are examples of how we can do this for our young people. Sixty-two percent of students in grades fifth, seventh, and ninth indicate that their parents provide support.

Perhaps one of the most challenging topics from this information is sharing power. As parents and mentors we need to hear young people’s voices and let them share in decisions. We can do this by showing respect, letting them negotiate, respond to their needs, interests and abilities, and collaborate on projects and solving problems. Sixty percent of students in Austin feel that their parents share power.

The last trait measured by our survey is that as parents, mentors and caregivers we need to create possibilities for our young people by expanding their horizons and connecting them to opportunities. We can do this by exploring ideas, experiences and places, connecting them to people who can help them grow, and helping them navigate through life to achieve their goals.

Forty percent of students in Austin indicate that their parents are expanding their possibilities.

In the end we all want to know that we matter, that we are heard, cared for and noticed. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, coach or mentor let the young people in your life know that you see them, care for them and want the best for them. These actions don’t cost money, require training, or expertise. They just require intention and time. Look for articles from Austin Aspires in the next months with specific information about each of these methods of building relationships with young people.