Report card season can be stressful for children and parents. Kids often want to please their parents, while parents might equate academic success with future well-being and happiness. When grades differ from expectations, it can be easy to respond in anger, disappointment or frustration. But parents should work to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children–not one focused on judgment, punishment or negativity. Share these four easy suggestions to help parents focus on making their child feel loved and supported during what can be a challenging time.
1. Focus on the good. Try to point out the positive aspects of your child’s report card. You can highlight an improved grade, or acknowledge the amount of effort that your child put forth in a subject. It’s important to focus more on EFFORT and less on the ACHIEVEMENT. Try this:
“This grade is a real improvement over last quarter’s grade in the same subject. I can see that you tried hard to improve in this area!”
2. Remind your child that no one is perfect. Report card season is an ideal time to discuss a time that you struggled to get a good grade, or didn’t meet expectations at a job. Let your child know that you have felt scared, frustrated, self-conscious, and disappointed about your own performance. It’s a normal part of life and the important thing is what you choose to do next. Try this:
“When I was your age, I worked hard on my science fair project and I thought I would receive a first-place ribbon, so imagine how disappointment I was when I didn’t place at all!”
3. Listen. There is usually an underlying reason for a child’s less-than-stellar academic performance. Give your child an opportunity to discuss their thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding school. As a parent, listen without judgement and ask open-ended questions. Try this:
“What part of the class is the most difficult for you? Which subject do you really enjoy?”
4. Devise a plan. Work with your child to help them succeed. Being supportive doesn’t mean not caring about grades, it means helping them set goals and improve their habits and understanding. Develop a plan–together–that includes a quiet place for your child to study, sets frequency and length of study sessions, and makes you or another caregiver available to provide help. If further assistance is necessary, consider tutoring or extra time after school with the teacher. Try this:
“Let’s write down some homework and study rules for our house. What will help you? I’d like to make sure you have a quiet place to focus, a snack, and…”
Parents sometimes need a gentle reminder that their child’s grades are NOT a reflection of their parenting skills. They are an opportunity to teach your child how to build resiliency, explore goal-setting and interests, and learn how to ask for help. We love these quick “Report Card Tips” we developed with the Child Protection Partnership a few years ago. Share with a parent you know this report card season!