When students start at a new school, there is a sense of excitement about new possibilities. In relation to their approach to studies, to peer relations and to community living, every student has the opportunity to re-start or re-build, and to set new goals and pursue them, with support or independently. Essential to this is a school with a culture where all can contribute, thrive and excel, and where the core values are aligned with those of the parents.
In a recent study, Angel L Harris and Keith Robinson, (EL, September 2017) examined 63 measures of parental involvement to answer the question: ‘What Kind of Parent Involvement Matters Most?’ to maximise student success at school. They concluded that the most powerful means of parental support is ‘stage-setting’, defined as ‘the degree to which parents convey the importance of education to their children and create and maintain an environment in which children can flourish.’
Julie Gillick, Head of Frensham, a boarding school for girls in the Southern Highlands of NSW, says: “Parents should look for a school with a shared approach to ‘stage-setting’. At Frensham, for example, we expect parents to be aligned with the School – in the interests of safety and well-being of their daughters, and in support of the School and fellow parents.”
Parental boundary-setting is vital in this endeavour, and to a child’s development. During formative years, parents routinely say ‘no’ to children to keep them safe and teach them about relationships and respect for others. As children mature, clear boundaries remain essential, to help teenagers to develop emotionally, to build resilience and to develop decision-making skills. Parental boundary-setting is vital whether a student attends boarding or day school.
This is not always easy for parents. Andrew Mullins (p.44 Parenting for Character, 2005) confirms the challenge: Parents are facing a great deal of competition in raising their children, competition from the peer group, from the media, from the bad example of role models in society. If, in the face of that pressure, parents abrogate their responsibility to raise their children well, children will suffer. A good parent does not throw in the towel.
Says Julie Gillick: “At Frensham, our mission is to provide a caring and supportive environment where we actively encourage students to grow in wisdom, self-assurance, leadership by example, integrity and humility, to become responsible, contributing members of society. Our efforts focus on the fundamentals of good parenting; providing both care and discipline in partnership with parents, we aim to provide a consistency of guidance and care, so that the girls can thrive in terms of character, leadership and wellbeing.”
In the words of Aristotle (384-322BC): It makes no small difference, whether we form habits of one kind or of another, from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather all the difference.