It’s disappointing when a child brings home a bad grade from school. For some parents, however, it also is confusing. What’s the best way to react? Should they scold and punish — or take a wait-and-see attitude?
According to Natalie Borrell, academic life coach at Life Success for Teens, if a child comes home with a bad grade, there is a lot parents can do to help. Knowing how to talk to children can motivate them to avoid patterns of failure and increase their desire to succeed. Borrell offers the following tips for talking to children about grades.
Don’t wait for the report card
Talking about grades can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Conversations about grades can be casual and informal and come up long before report cards come home. Ask how science class is going, or the timeline of the English project. Comment positively when you see good grades on assignments and ask how you can help when you notice a poor grade.
Build on their strengths
If your child excels in a particular subject, acknowledge that you are proud of the grade and ask why you think he or she does so well in it. If you understand what your child likes about a subject they excel in, it might help you strategize how to make other areas more appealing.
Discuss expectations and goals
Setting a reasonable goal in each subject area gives your child something to work toward. A goal can be a particular letter grade or, even better, mastering a habit like consistently turning in work on time. It is important for your child to know that you expect them to give their best effort in school, but that you don’t demand perfection.
Value effort more than the final grade
An A that was earned easily shouldn’t be praised as much as a B that your child worked hard for. Talk about the fact that your child put in effort and saw a reward for it. Focusing on the process and celebrating determination, rather than the final product, promotes a growth mindset.
Set up a regular time to check in
Setting up a day and time each week to talk about grades can make the conversations less stressful. If your child knows that every Friday you check in on grades, it becomes a part of their normal routine and the conversation won’t feel so heavy.
Explain what grades do and do not represent
Remember that your child is not defined by the grades they receive in school and recognize the value in both of you explicitly recognizing that fact. Grades only represent a portion of who they are and what they are capable of becoming. Your child’s report card measures how well they have mastered the information being taught, but it doesn’t measure other important characteristics like sensitivity, creativity and emotional intelligence.
Don’t just dictate a path to improvement
When your child receives a low grade, ask them what went wrong and how they think they can do better. You may be surprised by what you hear, and it may give you ideas about how you can be supportive. By asking instead of telling, you’re having your child do some problem solving on their own.
Take a deep breath — and take stock
Before any conversation about grades, take a moment to relax and think about the conversation in your mind. Run through what you want to say to your child, but also how your child is going to receive what you say. The point of any conversation about poor grades should be to help your child feel more confident and experience growth, not to make them feel bad about what has happened.
While it may be nice if you never had to have unpleasant conversations with your child about their academic performance, that’s simply not realistic to expect. Whether your child typically has trouble in school or simply hit a snag on a particular subject, it’s important to realize how you can help support and strengthen their resolve and hopefully help put them on a path to better results in the future.