A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

A Call to Commitment: Fathers' Involvement in Children's Learning - June 2000

II. Strategies to Improve Fathers' Involvement in Education

There are strategies to reduce obstacles to fathers’ involvement in education. To help dads warm up and get involved with their children means to convince them of the significance of small, very simple interactions with their children--interactions that may seem very insignificant to the dads, but mean a great deal to their children.

It is important to remember up front that both sensitivity and self-confidence are greater than any specific skills in paternal behavior and influence. Sensitivity is critical to both involvement and closeness. The closeness of the father-child relationship is the crucial determinant of the dad’s impact on a child’s development and adjustment. Developing sensitivity enables a dad to evaluate his child’s signals or needs, and respond to them appropriately. (Abramovitch in Lamb, 1997).

What Fathers Can Do at Home, at School and in the Community

Fathers can initiate or participate in activities that help their children succeed academically. Helping children learn can increase success in school. The nature and frequency with which parents interact in positive ways with their children reflect the parents’ investment in their children’s education (NCES, 2000). Here are some steps that fathers can take at home, at school and in the community that make a positive difference for their children’s education.

At home, fathers can:

At school and other childcare and child development programs, fathers can:

In the community, fathers can:

What Schools, Educators, Programs and Providers Can Do

Most schools, preschools and Head Start programs want to involve parents in their children’s learning. They offer information about learning at home and child-rearing issues. They hold back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences and athletic events to promote parental involvement. Schools and centers keep families informed of their children’s progress and performance through ongoing contact including newsletters, conferences, telephone calls and e-mail.

In order to engage fathers more fully as partners in children’s learning, schools, programs and providers need to challenge the assumption that parent involvement means only mothers’ involvement by proactively encouraging fathers to be part of the family learning team. A "family friendly environment" must also mean a "father friendly environment" and a "mother friendly environment."

How can schools take the lead to expand fathers’ involvement in their children’s education?

Use the National PTA Standards as a guide. The National PTA Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs clearly outline six types of parent involvement in education. Use these PTA standards to evaluate what your school is doing and to identify areas you would like to strengthen for working with families, especially fathers. These are:

Communicate with fathers. Whether fathers are in two-parent families or single-parent families, or are nonresident fathers, they should be encouraged to be actively involved in their children’s education and in supporting the school, preschool or Head Start program through volunteer work.

Expect fathers’ involvement. If educators and childcare providers do not see fathers involved, it is natural for them to assume that fathers do not want to be involved. However, it is often the case that fathers and mothers do not think the schools and centers want dad to be involved. The best way to break out of this "chicken-and-egg" dilemma is to communicate clearly to all parents that fathers and mothers as well are expected to be involved. There are many simple ways to do this.

Provide information and training to parents and school or center staff. For many dads, fathering education would positively affect their ability to impact their child's education. Schools, centers and programs can provide classes or sessions on building a warm, caring relationship with children that includes strategies like: listening to a child’s problems, giving advice, explaining rules, monitoring school performance, helping with homework, engaging in projects and giving praise and using discipline, without the use of physical force, to deal with misbehavior. Note that many nonresident dads put the emphasis on having "fun" while they are with their children because they do not want to risk starting a conflict.

Teaching mothers and fathers how to tutor their children in basic subjects and/or help their children, for example with motor skills development has also been designated as an area of need. This support to children’s learning can be given through home visits or at parent workshops in schools or other childcare and community centers.

For school staff, information and training could include technical assistance on topics such as making home visits and positive phone calls, appreciating diversity and family strengths, developing skills for parent-teacher conferences that address both mothers’ and fathers’ questions and concerns and helping families become stronger learning environments.

Establish family resource centers in schools. In centers, parents can read or borrow books on parenting, meet informally with teachers, attend small workshops, and learn of local jobs, services and programs. Provide books, workshops and meetings specifically for fathers.

Adjust school and childcare activity schedules to meet family needs. Host father-child breakfasts before the work day begins or dinners after work so that fathers can meet teachers. childcare providers and other school or center staff.

Create a father friendly environment. Many men feel uncomfortable visiting their children’s school for reasons that school personnel may not even realize. If a father did not do well in school himself, he may feel insecure any time he enters a school setting. There are many easy ways to make fathers feel welcome. Include fathers in parent/teacher conferences, after-school and extracurricular activities, in mentoring and tutoring activities and in making classroom presentations on careers and the educational preparation needed for these careers. Holding specially designed support groups for dads encourages them to focus on common issues of importance to them.

Deal with resistance to change. Although all staff members are likely to agree with the idea of getting fathers more involved in children’s learning, their feelings are often otherwise. The same goes for mothers. For example, women who have been abused or abandoned by men may have reservations about reaching out to fathers. Dealing with emotional resistance to the involvement of fathers in children’s learning is not easy, but it is important.

Staff early school positions with males. Staffing childcare facilities (infant to school-age care) with male teachers and other caregivers helps make dads more comfortable and feel that their stake in their children’s success is as great as the mothers’. Attendance at parent conferences increases when a greater number of fathers and other males related to the child are involved (Braver and Griffin, 1996).

What Other Community Partners Can Do

Employers can:

Communities can:


[The Context: What Research Tells Us]


[Examples of Programs that Engange
Fathers in Children's Learning]