Parenting for Competence & Parenting with Competence:

Essential Connections between Parenting and Social and Emotional Learning

Jennifer S. Miller, Shannon B. Wanless, and Roger P. Weissberg


The purpose of this investigation was to draw connections between our knowledge of school-based social and emotional learning (SEL) and the social and emotional aspects of parenting. Our inquiry built upon the research base of SEL in schools, and aimed to raise questions, and stimulate new research and practice that is meaningful to parents’ unique experiences. We asked how parents could use the extensive school-based SEL literature to help them in two ways:

  1. To develop their children’s social-emotional competence, and
  2. To apply and enhance their own social-emotional competence in their everyday parenting practices.


We surveyed over 90 SEL professionals, who were also parents, to determine how they see the overlap between school-based SEL and the role of SEL in their parenting. First, we asked questions such as, “Think about the kind of adult you want your children to grow up to be. Please list 5 words that describe this kind of adult.” Then we asked questions including, “Think about the kind of parent that you would like to be. Please list 5 words to describe that ideal.” Responses were read, listed and grouped, maintaining their terminology. Frequencies and alignments with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) research-based social and emotional competencies framework were examined.


  • Though language differs, parents’ hopes for children are the same as educators. Those hopes are realized through the cultivation of social and emotional skills.
  • Parents also had similar hopes for their own roles as parents that align directly with social and emotional skills.
  • Though parents can learn from educators who build children’s social and emotional skills, parents’ own culture and values are vital to inform educators.
  • Parents are unique in that they must use responsible decision-making skills regularly to respond to their children’s changes with each age and stage and often, multiple ages within a household.
  • SEL professionals rarely seek and utilize SEL knowledge to address their personal parenting challenges suggesting that there’s an opportunity gap that exists.

The alignment between hopes for children and for parenting may suggest that scholars and parents agree on the skills children require. However, they may not be aware of the alignment because they are using different terminology. Despite the fact that 95% of parents surveyed felt social and emotional skill-building was very important to parenting, the complexities of figuring out how the research and practice of social and emotional learning in schools can be utilized in the context of family life may be a barrier for parents in applying research-based practices at home. The table below shows what parents said were their hopes for their children and their hopes for their own parenting. It shows how they directly align with the research-based social and emotional competencies schools are promoting.W

As we make strides to build stronger connections between school-based SEL and parenting, there are unique aspects of parenting to consider. These include the need to support a wide range of parenting practices across family cultures (rather than promoting one vision of “best” practices as is often the case in school settings) and considering parents’ major emphasis cultivating responsible decision-making skills.

Hopes and Dreams aligned with Social and Emotional Skills in Spanish – Esperanzas para Nuestros Hijos, Esperanzas para la Crianza 


We have a commitment to making this research truly accessible to parents so that it becomes useable knowledge. That’s why we are creating a series of vignettes, or short story examples pulled from our data on what parents say are their biggest, thorniest challenges and our ideas for transforming them into teachable moments using the research base.

Check out the first one: When Parenting for Confidence, Independence, and Resilience, Build Self-Management Skills.”


Check out the Research Brief to learn more!

Read the full journal article in The School Community Journal:

Parenting with Competence and Parenting for Competence: Essential Connections between Parenting and Social and Emotional Learning in The School Community Journal



Jennifer Miller, M.Ed., Founder/Author, Illustrator of Confident Parents, Confident Kids, Expert, NBC Parent Toolkit, Family and Educational Consultant on Social and Emotional Learning

“Our research underscores that there’s a wealth of knowledge and practices in schools that can be adjusted and utilized to support parents’ in doing the hardest job in the world – raising their children in ways that meet their hopes for their development.”


Shannon B. Wanless, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology in Education, Director of the Office of Child Development, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh

“The fact that professionals in the social and emotional learning field rarely use their professional knowledge in their personal parenting shows us that there’s an opportunity gap that we can close by using the terms that parents use for their hopes for their children and for themselves. ”

Roger Weissberg, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, NoVo Foundation Endowed Chair in Social and Emotional Learning at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Chief Knowledge Officer for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning.

“Our research offers teachers, principals, and superintendents a new set of aspirational language to draw from and use to connect with parents around their children’s social and emotional learning, strengthening their partnership and multiplying their impact on our children’s well-being and development.”