“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
– Carol Dweck
In the spirit of Carol Dweck’s quote, it is important to address the role of parent-teacher associations (PTAs) in today’s schools because they can exponentially improve prevention of depression, anti-social behavior and suicide among children.
Our kids, ages 8 and 14, have been through several schools in the past five years. This is because of our family’s relocation from the United States to Hong Kong in 2012 and our subsequent return here in 2017. Our eldest, in particular, just finished an academic year at his sixth school.
Like most parents, my wife and I feel very invested in our kids’ future. We demonstrate this through engagement with their schools’ PTA. This engagement includes monetary contributions, serving as chaperones during trips, “mystery reader” appearances, and participation in social functions. We both are very keen observers of human behavior and enjoy every opportunity to do this. Observing PTA activities is of great interest to us — especially of late because we can see a huge change in the needs of children, both in education and in parenting. Mindful of this change, we are alarmed by the shallowness of PTAs as a function in today’s schools.
Everywhere you turn, conversations about depression, social-emotional difficulties and suicide among children are trending. If you are raising a teen, the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, which centers on audio tapes a high school suicide victim left her to explain her killing herself, has probably entered your awareness lately. Psychologists are raising concerns about the effects of tech-related dopamine addiction and its correlation with all aforementioned issues. The intersection of parenting and education is exactly where experts are pointing relative to problems as well as solutions.
Sadly, PTAs — located at the same intersection — don’t provide sensible solutions through cooperation between parents and teachers or introduction of third-party resources.
While collectively achieved framework and methodology are needed, a simple change for the better can start with a very simple name amendment – from “Association” to “Ambassadors.” The level of bureaucracy in this is minimal because decisions stay at an individual school level.
Why “Ambassadors”? Because this function corresponds with three important objectives:
Being an ambassador into minds of our children will help communicate care, congruence and closeness. It will also help reframe the function of a PTA from shallow facilitation of events and fundraising to a circle of support and protection – where our children could turn to for meaningful resources.
Why resources? Because it is naive to assume all kids turn to their parents and teachers for support. Often, they seek that among peers and external influencers. What ambassadors could do is understand children’s needs, interests and concerns and, in cooperation with educators, offer genuine help with developing social-emotional skills and overall resilience – sometimes by using their own abilities and occasionally seeking help from third parties.
To conclude, my wife and I genuinely believe that a PTA can disrupt some of the core threats to children’s well-being. They just need to transform from stagnant “Associations” to proactive “Ambassadors.” Let’s reframe our thinking and actions!
Here are some resources for consideration of Parent Teacher Ambassadors:
- Social Thinking
- The Mehrit Centre: Shanker Self-Reg
- Carol Dweck: A Summary of The Two Mindsets And The Power of Believing That You Can Improve
- Video: Teaching for Adaptability, Richard Davidson
Author’s note: This article was co-writing with my wife, Dalia.