“Sure, you can love your child when he or she has just brought home a report card with straight “A’s.” It’s a lot harder, though, to show the same love when teachers call you from school to tell you that your child hasn’t handed in any homework since the beginning of the term.” – The Lions Clubs International and the Quest Nation
They can bring surprises, be reason for joy, can cause of a lot of fear & anxiety. About four times a year, students all over the country bring home their report cards, with mixed responses from both parents & students themselves. It is easy enough to find ways to praise your child if he or she brings home all A’s, but what do you do if there are some grades on that report card that are lower than you know your student is capable of earning?
Here are some tips on how to deal with report card disappointments, and also how to help prevent low grades in the first place.
- Be slow to speak, & ask some helpful questions. If your student’s grades are disappointing, Dr. Neil McNerney recommends waiting for an hour or two before really expressing your feelings about it, so you can formulate your thoughts more carefully. He also suggests avoiding the “D” word – “disappointed” – if your student is struggling with his or her work & motivation. Once emotions have cooled off with some time, ask, “How do you feel about these grades?” and “What is your plan for improving them?” The first question helps reconnect them with the fact that your student really would rather be getting better grades, and the second question (which is especially helpful for students in middle school & older) puts a focus on improving the situation in tangible ways, plus it sets an expectation for the student to take ownership in his or her own grades, & really, in his or her own life.
- Talk with the teacher. Your student will likely communicate his or her own perspective on why the grades on the report card were not as high as they could be, but it is good to hear the “other side of the story” from your student’s teacher. With an older student, it may be helpful to have your child in the meeting with you & your child’s teacher. Your child’s teacher is also likely to be able to help your student form a plan for improving, and you can help keep your student accountable, while the primary responsibility for carrying out the plan is still on your student. Make sure that your student knows that, when he or she is struggling, it is important for him or her to go to the teacher to ask for help.
- Show your student how to track grades, & discuss them regularly. One of the most difficult things about dealing with disappointing grades is that they sometimes come as a surprise. It does not have to be that way, though. Most schools post grades online, and parents and students are given login information, so they can check grades easily. If you do not do it already, plan out a regular time, at least every week or two, to check in on your student’s grades. Even better, encourage your student to check in on his or her own grades regularly. And it’s still helpful for students to go with the old-school method of saving returned tests and assignments to gauge how things are going in any given class. Report cards do not have to bring surprises, and, ideally, you & your student should not have to be reacting to a grade as if it is totally new information. Better to prevent unpleasant surprises.
- Consider getting your child some outside-of-school tutoring help. While it is imperative that your child approach his or her teacher with questions on the content of a class, it may be that your child needs more intensive help than the teacher is able to give on a regular basis. Sylvan Learning Center can devise a program to meet your student’s individual academic needs, and can help your student gain confidence and take the steps needed to a report card with which everyone is happy.