Mothers help their children develop best when they teach them based on their abilities, according to Amanda Carr of the Department of Psychology at the University of Roehampton in London. Carr, who is the lead author of a recent study exploring how a mother’s teaching style affects a child’s development, stated that mothers who instruct their children to reach just above their potential, engaging an effective scaffolding process, are providing the most developmental benefits to their children. “Thus, when the task is beyond the child’s current attainment, help is increased; this reduces task complexity and allows the child to focus on what is within his or her capability,” said Carr. “As the child’s competency for the task grows, the mother can gradually withdraw her help, enabling the child to perform more and more of the task independently. This process is referred to as contingent shifting and involves the mother altering the level of specificity of her instruction in a manner that is dependent on the previous success or failure of the child.”
Carr noted that previous evidence has shown that this type of teaching not only benefits the child academically, but socially and psychologically as well. “In addition to the immediate learning opportunities that scaffolding provides, early parent-led tutoring interactions are linked to several indicators of children’s later school success including self-regulatory competence, patterns of achievement motivation, scholastic aptitude, and more recently executive function development,” she said.
Carr and her team studied 96 sets of mothers and children to determine how scaffolding would affect development. They assessed the children at age five and ten and found that the more educated mothers practiced the most effective scaffolding and used the least harsh parenting techniques. “Specifically, we found a direct association between positive parenting and mothers’ proclivity to provide contingent support during problem solving,” said Carr. She added that interventions that are designed to address behavior issues in the child-parent relationship may benefit from addressing this aspect of the dynamic.
Carr, A., & Pike, A. (2011, October 17). Maternal Scaffolding Behavior: Links With Parenting Style and Maternal Education. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025888
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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