Parents may think they are the biggest influence in their child’s life, however that is usually not the case. As a child grows up, they do not turn to their parents or teachers for support and guidance, but rather their friends. Friends influence grades more than a parent may think. In fact, those who a student chooses to surround himself with can be the single determining factor on how well they will succeed in school.
The Good and the Bad Influences
According to Vera Borukhov, a Queens tutor and teacher, “Kids with a positive social life tend to perform better academically.” If your child notices his friends caring about school and earning good grades, chances are he’s going to push himself harder academically in order to keep up with his friends. Or, if a student achieving average grades suddenly starts dating an honor roll student, his grades may improve drastically. It is important for students to feel like equals among their peers and be accepted socially.
On the other hand, if a student associates with a crowd that does not hold school to a high level of importance, that student is most likely going to slack off in order to fit in. Some students who are in fact very bright will deliberately perform poorly just so it does not seem like they are outperforming their peers. In these types of situations, students may never reach their full potential and will refuse to commit to their studies, just so their friends can accept them.
Hiroko Sayama, a systems scientist at the State University of New York in Binghamton, conducted a study to see if “grades are contagious.”
Sayama had 160 high school students fill out a survey, asking them to list their best friends, close friends, acquaintances and relatives. The students then received a list of each students’ class rank from junior to senior year. The results found that students whose friends had a high class average rank tended to see their own class rank rise from junior to senior year. Also, those students who hung out with low-achieving friends saw their grades decrease over the same period of time. Surprisingly, students who were at the top of the class did not see any decrease in their grades, although their friends inevitably had lower ranks.
The findings suggested academic performance could be seen as a “social contagion”, which travels through the friend circles. Whether it is subconscious or a result of peer pressure, students want to keep up with their friends, whether it be positive or negative. Sayama did mention, however, that some factors were not taken into consideration while completing this study, such as socioeconomic status and education level of the parents of students.
What Can I do as a Parent?
According to Marie-Helene Veronneau of the Child and Family Center, she suggests, “Parents should pay attention to what their kids are doing and with whom they hang out. If parents notice that there is a shift in a child’s friendship network, they should try to get to know those kids, talk with teachers and communicate naturally with their own child about where they are going and when they will be coming home,” she suggested.
By learning who your child’s friends are, you can encourage them to maintain relationships with those who enforce positive study habits. Communicate with them about the importance of education and how it is beneficial to surround themselves with those who strive for excellence. Your child may push back or accuse you of meddling, however continuously sending that message will eventually stick with them. With the right advice and frequent communication, you can trust your child will make the right decisions on their own.