UNC Researchers to Parents: Set Expectations for Children's Academic Success

Psychology study analyzes data from more than 7,600 parents and children nationwide

Headshot of John Mark Froiland and Aubrey Peterson

John Mark Froiland and Aubrey Peterson

Constantly monitoring and nagging children to do their homework is a far less effective approach for parents to take than setting positive expectations, according to a University of Northern Colorado study.

The study, by Assistant Professor of School Psychology John Mark Froiland and Ph.D. student Aubrey Peterson, also found that parent expectations that their kindergarten-aged children would succeed in college predicted eighth-grade achievement in math, reading and science.

The results were published in an article in School Psychology International, one of the leading educational psychology journals.

Reading to young children, expressing hopes that they do well in school and encouraging them to learn to help others are effective ways to set expectations and support academic success.

Froiland and Peterson, along with a University of Minnesota colleague, analyzed data involving more than 7,600 parents and children nationwide in concluding that parent expectations had a stronger effect on achievement than various forms of home-based parental involvement, including checking on grades and homework.

Based on this study and previous studies by Froiland, he offers these tips for parents to set expectations and support their children's academic success:


  • Read to children ages 2-5 every day. Explain the meaning of vocabulary words and frequently visit the library together.
  • Express your hopes, from preschool to young adulthood, that your children will do well in school and pursue the highest degree they're capable of.
  • Point them to the deeper purposes in learning - one of the greatest is to help others - throughout life.


  • Continually harp on them about grades and homework. In middle school and high school, children often struggle with their independence and may perceive questions such as "Don't you think you should go study right now?" as controlling.
  • Emphasize grades and other rewards so much that children lose sight of the real value of learning.
  • Allow your children to associate you solely with pressure and demands. It's important to keep the relationship strong by spending time with your children doing something pleasant and show unconditional love so that they know that they are accepted by you regardless of how well they perform in school.

For more information, please visit: http://spi.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/07/31/0143034312454361.abstract