From neglected child to favorite snot nose – Algemeen Nijmegen Studentenblad

In Tijdgeest, each issue discusses the past, present and future of the view of a phenomenon or development. This edition: Parental involvement in education.

‘Hyper parents’, ‘helicopter parents’ and ‘curling parents’ are all ways of describing the type of parent who is too involved in their child’s well-being. They want the child to study well and later end up with a lucrative job. When it takes a big fight to get their children into a senior high school, these parents don’t shy away from it. Although this is an extreme case, parents today expect a lot from their children’s education. Has this been the case in the past and will it continue in the future?

Past: Making money for the family greenhouses with class

In the first half of the last century, families were large because parents had an economic incentive to have many children: their offspring could contribute to the family budget and therefore started working at a young age. ‘Because families were large, there was little individual attention for a child,’ says René van der Veer, emeritus professor of historical pedagogy. “Parents really didn’t have time to play with their children, let alone help them with school work, if they went to school at all.” Parents of different socio-economic backgrounds stimulated different behaviors in their children. “Highly educated parents emphasized initiative and independence because the children would later become bosses,” he explains. ‘Less educated parents valued obedience and authority more as they wanted to work under a boss’.

Going to school was not a certainty: until the mid-1970s, compulsory education only applied to children up to the age of ten. Pupils who attended school received the same level of education as their parents. A shilling rarely became a quarter, and parents from a lower milieu believed that this was no more than logic. This is not to say that children had no choice at all in their future professions. ‘Since the 1920s, there have been all kinds of career selection offices that schools, especially in the cities, sent children to to see what profession a child was suitable for,’ says Jacques Dane, head of Collections and Research at the Education Museum Dordrecht. Children naturally ended up in subjects that matched the level of education their parents had also followed.

‘Society became more and more competitive.’

With the introduction of the Cito test in 1968, students no longer depended solely on the advice of their teacher and their parents’ background, but also on a test that measured their own performance. At the time, the number of children per family had decreased due to the normalization of birth control, increased prosperity, and the ever-increasing tightening of compulsory education. In addition, devices such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines were introduced that eased household chores. All this gave parents more time to turn their children into a ‘project’, with education being a core theme since the 1990s. “Society has become more and more competitive,” says Dane. “It was about making money and getting the status that was associated with the education you had.” At that time, the first parents came to see the Cito test as something they could have their children practice. The wealthy also sent their offspring to educational institutions that arose during these years.

Present: ‘Did you know that Picasso had a Cito score of 550?’

The pressure among young people to do well in school has only increased. It is a broad social problem in which parents also play a role: they encourage high education that leads to good jobs. However, not all parents can participate in the arms race. While some simply cannot afford the added luxury of teaching, others struggle to find the free time to support their child with schoolwork themselves. “If you have a limited monthly salary, there is no room to invest in your child’s Cito score,” says Dane. “Then you give your child food and clothes so that he has his basic necessities of life.”

‘Parents have stimulated the urge to achieve, resulting in fear of failure.’

Parents who can provide basic services for their children, meanwhile, make it a daily practice to support them as much as possible. Although the intentions are good, so-called helicopter parents have too high expectations. ‘Parents have stimulated the urge to perform, which results in fear of failure,’ says Jan Derksen, former lecturer in Psychodiagnostics at Radboud University. According to him, parents constantly give their children the smallest compliments so that they do not learn to deal with criticism. ‘Helicopter parents keep their children out of the wind in the first years of life,’ says Derksen. Children of these over-involved parents never fall out of a tree, don’t have to cycle against the wind and are told that their drawings look like Picasso’s. They cannot take beatings, but they should be able to if success is expected of them later. ‘This contradiction leads to these children breaking down when later in life they get a low Cito score or receive negative feedback in a performance assessment,’ says Derksen.

This type of child is widely discussed in the media, but according to Derksen, it is so far an exception to the rule. Although she agrees with Derksen, Susan Branje, professor of adolescent development and socialization at Utrecht University, says that the habits of overinvolved parents seep into the general state of affairs. ‘While parents were more authoritarian in the 1950s and 1960s, we are now moving towards an overprotective upbringing.’ Today, parents come to complain if they think the teacher is treating their children wrongly. According to Branje, it’s not the end of the world, because it gives parents the opportunity to offer support and help the child end up in a suitable school. However, she adds a comment: ‘Young people must also learn to shape their lives and make their own decisions.’

Future: Having children in daycare

Parents will have more say in how schools treat their children and will certainly continue to do so in the future. “Furthermore, the primary school has more and more parental and caring tasks on its plate. From providing breakfast to lessons on bullying,’ says Van der Veer. To predict what awaits schools in the future, he looks at parents’ labor market participation. ‘If both parents work full-time, the nursery becomes more important and the parental duties move to the school or daycare.’ This, combined with the overall high workload for teachers and students, has made Danes worried about the future. “You can see that the schools barely have time to teach children to count, spell and write properly,” he says. “They are overworked.”

‘Parents keep meddling longer and easier in their child’s choices.’

Parents are therefore increasingly involved with their children and schools, but they are also doing so longer and longer. “Leaving home, getting into a relationship and getting married are times when parents used to distance themselves more from their children,” says Branje. But young people are increasingly postponing such moments. Branje explains that due to high student debt and limited housing options, students choose to continue living at home within their parents’ sphere of influence. “This means they continue to interfere longer and more easily in their child’s choices,” she says. “It could lead to more helicopter training.”

Branje also suggests that in the future we must look more negatively at parents’ high expectations in order to raise young people in a healthy way. ‘The pressure to perform that young people experience is linked to their parents’ expectations,’ she says. She cites recent research as an example Health behavior in school-age children indicates that more and more young people, and especially girls, have psychological problems and high performance pressure, among other things due to the parents’ high expectations. According to Branje, we must therefore be critical of stimulating higher education and homework guidance. Van der Veer is also critical of current expectations. According to him, it is important that practical occupations are reassessed so that young people experience less pressure to perform. ‘Being theoretically educated has primarily become a matter of prestige for parents who have themselves been theoretically educated,’ he says. As a result, we have come to attach too little value to practical occupations. ‘I expect that the current shortage of craftsmen will lead to higher wages, so that parents will see this as more valuable work,’ he says. “Well, it still looks like coffee grounds.”

This article appeared in ANS newspaper 5.

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