Program Outcomes for Parents & Families




Motivate includes the parenting practices which promote intellectual development in children. Parents who take their responsibility as their children's teacher seriously, and who perform their teaching functions effectively and sensitively throughout their children's lives, are more likely than other parents to have children who become confident and skilled learners and who attain high levels of educational achievement.

The Motivate cluster of skills is closely related to other outcome areas in the NEPEM model, namely Guide and Nurture. Parents who are the most successful motivators lovingly nurture and guide their children with both respect and sensitivity. The parenting practices promoted in the Motivate cluster may be especially responsive to parent education. Parents can learn how to facilitate their children's learning more effectively.

Parental responsibility for the intellectual development of their children begins early. Recent neurological research has confirmed social scientistsí and educatorsí long-held assumptions about the critical importance of childrenís experiences in the earliest years of life for their intellectual, social, and emotional development (Kotulak, 1996). Children need opportunities to learn. Infants, preschoolers, and school-age children are more likely to become skilled and motivated learners if their parents provide them with opportunities for a variety of experiences which stimulate sensory, physical, and intellectual learning (Caldwell and Bradley, 1979; Honig, 1979).

Language and literacy skills are among the most important predictors of children's educational success. The amount and quality of childrenís language experiences within their families in the first three years of life affect children's vocabulary growth and use at age 3 and often predict their third grade language skills (Hart and Risley, 1995). Children whose parents have promoted their language and literacy throughout preschool and early school years are most likely to have success in school and beyond (Becker, 1985; Clarke-Stewart, 1977; Greaney, 1986; Hess and Holloway, 1984; Honig, 1982; Laosa, 1982; Tizard and Hughes, 1984). Children who have access to reading and writing materials, who have parents who read frequently to them and take them to the library have been found to be more skilled readers than children who do not experience these encouragements (Powell, 1991).

Child competence has been found to be associated with a variety of parental behaviors. In their summary of the research, Amato and Ochiltree (1986) report that able parents encourage their children to explore and interact with the environment. They give their children responsive and realistic feedback. They are warm and supportive. They have high expectations for their children and assist with schoolwork. They also take an active problem solving approach to resolving conflict and create an environment that is relatively free of overt conflict between family members.

Learning is enhanced by responsiveness. Teaching is most effective if provided by parents and other caregivers who are aware of and responsive to their children's specific learning patterns, needs, and capabilities. Controlling and restrictive parents undermine children's intellectual development by restricting children from freely exploring their environment (Clarke-Stewart, 1973; Dornbusch et al., 1987; Gottfried, 1983; Jennings and Conners, 1989; Ramey and Finkelstein, 1978; Sparling, 1980). In his review of the research, Powell (1991) pointed out that the most beneficial teaching strategies stimulate the child's own thinking and encourage active, verbal engagement of a task. In addition, Powell and Peet (1992) found that parents' contributions to children's learning are most effective when incorporated into daily family routines. In their study of parent beliefs about their children's academic experience, Powell and Peet found that a majority of parents are worried about their child's future, and approximately one-third do not expect their child will attain what the parent considers to be an ideal position for the child.

Home-school collaboration is critical. When parents collaborate with their children's teachers, these children are more likely to adjust to and succeed in school (Cotton and Savard, 1982; ERIC Clearinghouse, 1985; Hamilton and Cochran, 1988; Schmitt, 1986; Rodick and Henggeler, 1980). Parents also play the role of interpreter of objective confidence feedback for their children. Children incorporate their parents' impressions of their capabilities into their own self-appraisal of their academic competence. Parent's opinions are even more important than actual records of achievement (Philips, 1987).

Reasonable and positive expectations build a foundation for success. Children are more likely to be achieving learners if their parents have high but reasonable learning expectations for them (Coopersmith, 1967; Phillips, 1987; Steinberg, Elmen, and Mounts, 1989). Steinberg et al., (1989) found that the three aspects of authoritative parenting-acceptance, psychological autonomy, and behavioral control-may enhance an adolescent's work orientation and ultimately school success. In his review of the research, Powell (1991) pointed out that the most beneficial teaching strategies stimulate the child's own thinking and encourage active, verbal engagement of a task. "Hothousing," exerting inappropriate levels of achievement pressure on young children, creates an artificial environment and is likely to be counterproductive (Sigel, 1982).

Parents have a role as interpreters of objective confidence feedback for their children. Children incorporate their parents' impressions of their capabilities into their own self-appraisal of their academic competence. Parent's opinions are even more important than actual records of achievement (Philips, 1987).


Motivate includes those parenting practices that promote intellectual development in children (Smith, et al., 1994).

The following parent behaviors serve as examples for developing more specific outcome objectives based on the critical component elements of Motivate:

Parents identify why they are the first and potentially the most important teachers for their children.
Parents establish a home environment conducive to learning.
Parents help their children acquire knowledge and skills they need to become responsible, contributing young people and adults.
Parents stimulate their children's curiosity and desire to learn.
Parents increase their children's confidence as learners.
Parent promote their children's preparation for success in school.
Parents more accurately identify their children's learning patterns and learning needs.
Parents engage their children in more language-rich activities.
Parents increase the number of appropriate learning experiences they provide for their children.
Parents use more encouraging and supportive responses to their children's learning efforts.
Parents establish more realistic, achievable homework and study rules.
Parents play more learning games with infants and preschoolers.
Parents increase interest in, and knowledge of, their children's schools and school achievement.
Parents interact more effectively with their children's schools and teachers.

Component elements

Motivating parents...
Teach their children about themselves, others, and the world around them.
Stimulate their children's curiosity, imagination, and the search for knowledge.
Create beneficial learning conditions for their children.
Help their children process and manage information. (Smith, et al., 1994).

Brief summary with application to State Strengthening Projects

Parents make critical contributions to their childrenís intellectual development when they take responsibility for being their childís first and most important teacher. Providing a positive home environment that encourages childrenís exploration, curiosity, and confidence; being responsive to childrenís learning patterns, interests, and needs; setting and following up on high but reasonable expectations for childrenís behavior and learning; and taking an active role in helping children adjust and succeed in the school environment are all a part of parentís role to motivate childrenís learning readiness and academic achievement (Smith, et al., 1994). The parenting practices promoted in the Motivate cluster may be especially responsive to parent education. Parents can learn how to facilitate learning effectively.


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Becker, R. M. (1985). Parent involvement and reading achievement: A review of research and implications for practice. Childhood Education, 44- 50.

Caldwell, B. M., & Bradley, R. H. (1979). Home observation for the measurement of the environment. Little Rock, AR: University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Clarke-Stewart, K. A. (1977). Childcare in the family: A review of research and some propositions for policy. New York: Academic Press.

Clarke-Stewart, K. A. (1973). Interactions between mothers and their young children: Characteristics and consequences. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 38(153), 6-7.

Coopersmith, S. (1967). The antecedents of self-esteem. San Francisco and London: Freeman and Company.

Cotton, K., & Savard, W. (August 1982). Parent involvement in instruction, K-12: Research synthesis. ERIC Reports. St. Ann, MO: CEMREL Inc.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education (June 1985). ERIC/CUE Digest No. 27. New York: Columbia University.

Gottfried, A. E. (1983). Intrinsic motivation in young children. Young Children, 39, 64-72.

Greaney, V. (1986). Parental influences on reading. The Reading Teacher, 39, 813-818.

Hamilton, M. A., & Cochran, M. (1988). Parents, teachers, and community: Building partnerships for the child. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Hart, B. & Risley, T.R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore: Paul Brookes.

Hess, R. D., & Holloway, S. D. (1984). Family and school as educational institutions. In R. D. Parke (Ed.), The family. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Honig, A. S. (1979). A review of recent research. The American Montessori Society Bulletin, 17, 3-4.

Honig, A. S. (1982). Infant-mother communication. Young Children, 37, 352- 62.

Jennings, K. D., & Conners, R. E. (1989). Mothers' interactional style and children's competence at three years. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 12(2) 155-175.

Kotulak, Ronald. Inside the Brain. Revolutionary Discoveries of how the Mind Works. (1996). Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel.

Laosa, L. M. (1982). Families as facilitators of children: Intellectual development at three years of age: A causal analysis. In L.M. Laosa and I. E. Sigel (Eds.), Families as learning environments for children (pp. 1-45). New York: Plenum Press.

Phillips, D. A. (1987). Socialization of perceived academic competence among highly competent children. Child Development, 58, 1308-1320.

Powell, D. R. (1991) Strengthening parental contributions to school readiness and early school learning. Washington, D.C.: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.

Powell, D. R., & Peet, S. H. (1992b). Making it in today's world: Options for strengthening parents' contributions to children's learning. Indianapolis: The Lilly Endowment, Inc. of Indianapolis.

Ramey, C. T., & Finkelstein, N. W. (1978). Contingent stimulation and infant competence. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 3(2), 89-96.

Rodick, J., & Henggeler, S. (1980). The short-term amelioration of academic and motivational deficiencies among low-achieving, inter-city adolescents. Child Development, 51, 126-132.

Schmitt, D. (1986). Parents and schools as partners in preschool education. Educational Leadership, November, 40-41.

Smith, C. A., Cudaback, D., Goddard, H. W., & Myers-Walls, J. A. (1994). National Extension Parent Education Model of Critical Parenting Practices. Manhattan, KS: Kansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Sparling, J. (Ed.). (1980). Information needs of parents with young children. Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina.

Steinberg, L., Elmen, J. D. & Mounts, N. S. (1989). Authoritative parenting, psychosocial maturity, and academic success among adolescents. Child Development, 60, 1424-1436.

Tizard, B., & Hughes, M. (1984). Young Children Learning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.



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