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Every child brings home the occasional disappointing grade. Sometimes their own hurt or shame is enough to set them on the right path. Other times, parental intervention may be needed to make sure it’s not the beginning of a pattern. But when is the best time to talk? And what do you say?
Remember, for a child, the struggle is even harder. Children are innocent little beings looking to gain the love and approval of those around them. They are constantly in a competition with their peers in order to impress their teachers with good scores. What starts as an innocent rivalry turns extremely competitive by the time the child reaches higher class. More and more focus is giving on the academic performance of the child rather than the talents and hobbies.
Parents and teachers start raising their expectations with each passing class. The complete attention is on the results and the report cards of the child. The child’s performance is considered good by the parents only if s/he scores distinction. But what if the child is unable to perform well and ends up with a bad report card?
How to handle the initial reaction?
Don’t react with disappointment. A poor grade is often a red flag for a potential problem area, not a measure of your child’s worth or your parenting skills. Collect your thoughts and respond in a calm, clear way:
Discuss, don’t lecture! Kids tune out lectures. Instead, ask this question: “What do you think happened, and does this reflect the work you put into it?” Your child will likely point you to the problem and the solution. Does the teacher talk too fast? A recorder could help. Is homework incomplete? A structured routine is vital.
Approach the subject with concern, not anger. Although you want to address a bad grade when it occurs, take a break to cool down if you find yourself angry. Remember that what is important is what happens from this point forward. You can’t change the past.
Ask questions. You’ll want to know why your child got the poor grade or report card. Is something going on at school? At home? Did he simply not study? Were assignments missed? Is she spending too much time with friends? “Uncovering the cause of the poor performance will let you address it before it becomes a bigger problem,” says Dr. Nolan.
Think proficiency, not perfection. Some kids are C students, yet excel at music, art, or athletics. Nurture their gifts but discuss expectations. Rather than striving for straight A’s, expect that your child be proficient in academic and social-emotional learning for their grade level. This includes lifelong learning skills, such as team membership, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication.
Praise the Positive. Somewhere on that report card, there is something to be proud of. That may only be a good attendance record, but it’s something. Make sure your child knows you’re looking at everything and not just the negatives.
Photo Credits: Very Well Family
Understand the Grading System
Read the key indicating how the grading system works before reacting. Each school may have a different way of grading and it may be different than what you’re used to. That’s why it’s important to fully understand how your child’s school handles it.
For example, your child may receive a letter grade tied to a numerical point system. Or, they might receive letters indicating progress (such as “I” for “Improving” or “G” for “Grade Level”). Then again, it might be a standards-based report card.
What looks like a bad grade to you may actually not be as bad as it seems.
Know How Grades Are Weighted. When your child enters a new classroom, ask how the grades are weighted. Some teachers give more emphasis to tests than to homework, for example. If your child has exceptional grades on his homework but has a hard time taking tests, his grades may reflect this and not his true understanding of the subject.
Ways In which bad grades can be avoided
1. Address the importance of grades early
Don’t let a bad report card be the motive for your first talk about your expectations. Discuss this each year with your child.
2. Separate the child from the grade
Be sure your child knows that, while you dislike the grade, you love her. Keep in mind that although grades are important, they are just one measure of success. Uncovering the cause of the poor performance will let you address it before it becomes a bigger problem.
3. Talk to the teacher
The teacher’s input can shed valuable light on whether there is a need for more help, or if your child may have signs of a learning disability.
4. Know that rewards and punishment don’t work if you want your child to love learning
Be supportive of school, regardless of your own level of education. If you make learning enjoyable, children will do their best because they love to learn. That’s a much better long-term motivator than fear of punishment.
5. Beware of pressure
It’s good to be a concerned, involved parent. But don’t encourage your child to compete with others over grades. “Children should compete only with themselves and do their best,” Dr. Nolan stresses. Pressure can result in depression, not sleeping and other significant problems.
6. Take the simplest steps first
Check your child’s organizational skills. Limit television. Provide a good study environment and establish homework times. Be careful not to over-schedule your child with extracurricular activities.
7. Talk About Poor Grades
It is important to talk to your child about the poor grades so you can get to the root cause. At the same time, it’s equally important that you don’t lose your temper.
Michael Jordan said it best: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”