Don’t Underestimate the Power of Simply Chatting with Your Teen

The world’s most influential assessment of student achievement has reaffirmed the powerful influence parents can have on their teen’s satisfaction with life, motivation and educational achievement.

The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is best known for measuring the academic achievements of the world’s 15-year-olds in mathematics, science and reading.

However, for the first time in 2015 it also surveyed 540,000 students in 72 participating countries and economies about a range of well-being issues including: their motivation to perform well in school; their relationships with their peers and teachers; their home life; and how they spend their time outside of school.

The survey findings were recently released by the OECD in a 530-page report, Students’ Well-Being: PISA 2015 Results.  

The impact parents can have on their child’s general well-being at school and how they perform academically emerged as a strong theme in the report.

According to OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos, “these findings show how teachers, schools and parents can make a real difference to children’s well-being. Together they can help young people develop a sense of control over their future and the resilience they need to be successful in life. There is no secret, you perform better if you feel valued, if you feel well treated, if you are given a hand to succeed!”

According to the findings, “students whose parents reported ‘spending time just talking to my child’, ‘eating the main meal with my child around a table’ or ‘discussing how well my child is doing at school’ regularly were between 22 percent and 39 percent more likely to report high levels of life satisfaction.

According to the OECD the academic impact of parent interest in and engagement with their child’s education is also significant.

“Students who spent time talking with their parents were two-thirds of a school year ahead in science learning, and even after accounting for socio-economic status, the advantage remains at one-third of a school year.”

Motivation is also a contributor to better results. According to the findings “students who are among the most motivated score the equivalent of more than one school year higher in PISA than the least-motivated students”.

But a fine balance needs to be maintained to ensure overzealous parents don’t go too far by turning their child’s motivation into anxiety or “an excessive fear of failure”.

According to OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher, “all in all a clear way to promote students’ well-being is for schools to encourage all parents to be more involved with their child’s school life. If parents and teachers establish relationships based on trust, schools can rely on parents as valuable partners in the cognitive and socio-emotional education of their students”.