Family Matters #5: Commitment to Learning

By Lucia Ferrara

It is school time again and parents are struggling to make decisions about children going back to school during a pandemic! Those are tough calls to make. Whatever decision is made, however, one thing that should never change is our commitment to learning.  This is so important especially in a time such as this.

The Search Institute, a Minnesota-based organization that researches and promotes positive youth development, has identified building blocks of healthy development that help youth learn to be caring and responsible as they grow. The Search Institute calls these Developmental Assets and divides them into External and Internal Assets. Among the Internal Assets is  Commitment to Learning, which means “Young people need a sense of the lasting importance of learning and a belief in their own abilities.”

The Commitment to Learning has several aspects, including: school engagement, achievement motivation, homework, bonding to school and reading for pleasure.

In today’s article, I want to discuss school engagement, because it is focused not only on academics or being engaged in learning but it is also focused on the individual’s goals and interests.

All the articles in this series are available here.

Goals and interests are obviously different for every child. We as parents need to encourage our child to stay involved in activities in and out of the classroom. Opportunities for learning are everywhere! When we keep our youth focused on an interest then they will exhibit more positive behaviors.  For some young people, this may be about joining an after-school program, team, or club that meets once or twice a week. Some of these meet out in the community to help with service hours. The following are examples of such groups: Spanish club, robotics club, glee club, youth court and Future Business Leaders of America.

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Engaging your student’s interests fosters an active engagement in learning.

My son, a high school sophomore this year, has trained as a youth attorney for the youth court of Jackson County, Missouri.  Youth court is a diversion program for young offenders, a collaborative effort between the Jackson County Bar Association, the Juvenile Division of Family Court, the City of Independence, Missouri, and the Independence Police Department. The sponsors believe that connecting young offenders with prosocial peers will have positive impacts.

This program and many others offered in and out of schools help compliment school curricula. Engaging your young student’s interests in these ways fosters an active engagement in learning, one of the goals to the Development Assets.

There are all sorts of community and neighborhood events or activities that might be interesting for your child to be a part of. Many are offered at your local library, museums, or community centers.

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Remember to communicate with your child about their interests and look for ways to address their curiosity. Helping our youth create these new ways of experiencing and learning will benefit their social/emotional behavior in a positive way.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we as a community are being asked to take precautions and take recommendations and guidelines seriously. Keeping this in mind, developmental and relational aspects are essential to helping our youth grow successfully.

I would like to leave you with some reflection questions about how we can challenge growth in our kids during this time while being committed to learning as we discussed.

1. How do we as parents express care to our children? Give examples.
2. How can parents provide support to young people about completing tasks and achieving goals?
3. Ask your child how you can help them focus on their personal ideas of success.

Until next time.

[Lucia Ferrara, the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions at Read more about the Parent Café here.]



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