What if your child came home with a terrible report card? Do you scream? List the consequences? Let it go? How you manage your child’s academic success is part of your responsibility as a parent and has an impact on their future success.
Let’s start with various perceptions of grades for children.
Do good grades matter?
Well, yes and no. Good grades can help your child succeed in life, there’s no doubt about it. Straight A students have easier access to good universities, scholarships, and, ultimately, higher-paying jobs. However, that’s not all there is, and some students’ best may never be As and Bs.
My son just graduated from high school, and they announced the students who achieved a higher than 4.0 grade average. Those students received special tassels to wear, and their success was celebrated and cheered by the crowds of parents. For some students, the best they can do is a C grade. The important thing for parents to understand is that we should expect our children to do their best—whatever that is, helping your child succeed at school needs to be your goal as a parent.
Academic success can vary because our children are all unique, but the expectation still needs to be that they do their best and give it 100% every time. That is the life lesson.
Before the grades come out
First, it’s important that you lay the groundwork early with your child. The 1st time your child comes home with a report card is usually in kindergarten or 1st grade. That’s when talking about grades with students is really important. Start off at the very beginning to establish your expectations, your love for the small successes, and the support you give for the future.
Parents, talk to your child about her grades. With my daughter, we started a tradition in kindergarten. The days she came home with a report card, I would have her sit on my lap, and we would read it together. We would go over each line, grades and behavior, and discuss what the grade meant as well as the comments from the teacher. We would talk about what she had done well and what she could work on. Then we would go out for a special dinner, just the two of us, to celebrate her success as a student.
What to say if a child gets bad grades
The best tip for talking about bad grades on a report card is to always be aware of what’s going on with your child in school so that bad grades aren’t a surprise. If you know how your child is doing in class and you are keeping in contact with her teacher, you will usually know when grades will be low.
Sometimes bad grades happen, and that’s okay. If you are already involved in your child’s academic success, you have laid the foundation for being in it together for the long haul. I insisted on correcting my daughter’s papers before she turned them in so I could help her with grammar, spelling, and the fundamentals of writing an engaging story.
I knew what was going on and when she was about to come home with grades that weren’t up to par. The best thing to do when your child gets bad grades is to know in advance what’s coming so you can be prepared to help her work on ways of achieving success. If there was a surprise, we would work it out together and come up with a plan for her to get back in gear. The most important thing is to balance acceptance and push for further success.
My oldest son is a different story. With my daughter, I was involved in everything: I kept in touch with her teachers, followed her grades carefully, and helped her with her homework. I adopted my son when he was 12, and his life experiences dictated how he responded to certain things, such as a perception of him not being smart.
With him, I had to let go and make sure the sports requirements were what helped him stay focused on school. If I went anywhere near academic stuff, he would have a violent reaction. I had to quietly keep in contact with his teachers and counselor to support him as much as I could. I had to be completely hands-off because of who he was.
Helping your child succeed at school
We are all unique. Not everyone needs to be a straight A student, and it’s okay. Not everyone needs to go to college. For those that do, grades will be important, and depending on the career they’ve chosen, grades may or may not be important in the future. Since everyone is different, we as parents need to look at our children’s academic needs individually and teach them not to compare themselves to anyone else.
I’ve kept telling my daughter that there will always be someone smarter than her, and she will always be smarter than somebody else. That is how the world is, and that doesn’t make you better or worse. We are all special because of what we bring.
But why is working hard in school good and doing the best you can good for a child’s future? Just like doing chores around the house, a child who learns to have grit and perseverance doing schoolwork is someone who won’t quit when life gets hard. Helping our children learn to do their best no matter what is the way to help them achieve their dreams.
My youngest son, who has severe ADHD, is just finishing 1st grade. He certainly has had a challenging year, and I know the vice principal’s phone number by heart. But that is the key here: when he came home with his 1st-quarter report card, we sat down with him on my lap, and we talked about it because we’ve been talking about how he has been doing throughout the year.
He’s not worried about grades because we work through them together, and that is how his academic life will be. I’ll be there to support him. Bad grades won’t be a surprise, and he will know that he’s terribly smart, and we will always find the tools to help him succeed. It’s not about the grades right now; that will be important in the future. It’s about teaching him to try his best no matter what.