Report card season is stressful for everyone involved. The children are stressed out. The parents are stressed out. Maybe the teachers are stressed out too, who knows? For many people growing up, this was a period of fear because of the uncertainty of what their parents would do. If you’re looking to do things differently from your parents, here are some tips on how to handle a bad report card.
Let’s start with exploring the common reasons for poor performance. The most common causes include:
- Ill health which may have led to missed classes or study time
- Difficulty understanding certain concepts
- Blanking out even though they studied and know the answers
- Burnout from too much studying, resting too little, and not enough downtime
- Lack of motivation
- Emotional unbalance because of an unforeseen or unfortunate incident
How to prepare for the conversation
So your child has a bad report card, here are some questions to ask yourself before talking to the child.
What grade is your child in?
Keep in mind that some grades are tougher and more complex than others.
Do they have poor grades in one subject or multiple?
If it’s a singular subject, it’s easier to narrow down the issue. If it’s multiple subjects, that’s a different matter and may signal a larger issue from concentration to behavioural issues and more.
Has there been a big life change recently?
If this is the first time their report card has been this bad, think about what may have happened in their life to cause it. Changes at home like a big move or even turmoil in the home can have a huge impact on children.
What is considered a bad grade?
This is specific to your child. What have their grades been like in the past? If your child has been getting 50s and now they’re getting 60s they’re improving. Don’t compare them to the child who’s been getting 80s.
What is the teacher’s feedback?
Consider what comments the teacher has left as you determine how to proceed. If possible meet the teacher before so you can get their insight and advice about how to proceed.
How to handle that conversation
Discuss, don’t lecture
Do it when you’re calm and willing to listen. If you do this when you’re angry, they are unlikely to open up about what’s happening. Communication is key to understanding what’s going on. Don’t humiliate or scold them, they likely feel bad enough already.
Start with the good
As with any feedback conversation, start with the positive. What are they doing well? Where are they excelling? Once you establish that, you can pivot to the areas that need improvement.
Reward and motivate
Avoid punishing bad grades, instead, consider ways to motivate the child and reward future improvement. If they have raised any issues, for example, difficulty understanding certain concepts, you can consider getting them extra tuition. Get them whatever help they need.
Set clear goals and expectations
Sit with your child and agree on goals and expectations. Do you expect straight A’s? Is that reasonable? Are you hyper-focusing on grades and expecting too much? Do they excel in other things such as Art and Sports? If you set a goal to move from, say a D to a B+, consider breaking it into smaller chunks. For example, at the end of this term move to a C, and by the end of the year, move up to a C+, and so on.
Celebrate the progress and offer consistent support throughout. Remind your child that no one is perfect and that dealing with failure and struggling to learn new concepts is normal. Make sure they understand that you’re still proud of me, the report card notwithstanding.
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