My child brought home a bad report card. I don’t want to make her feel worse than she already does but I also want to help her to improve her grades. How do we respond to our child, and what steps do we take now?
Keely Buchanan, owner of the education consulting company Preparing for Denver Kindergarten, shares the following tips for parents:
Stanford Children’s Health Collaborative, a group that educates the public about programs and services that benefit the health of children, encourages parents first and foremost to not react with disappointment. “A poor grade is often a red flag for a potential problem area, not a measure of your child’s worth or your parenting skills,” according to the organization. “Collect your thoughts and respond in a calm, clear way.”
When your child brings home a surprising report card, it can be tough on the whole family. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when you respond:
- Always start with the good. As with any feedback conversation, always start on a positive note. How is your child excelling? What positive feedback can you point out from the teacher? Once you establish the good stuff, you can pivot to areas of improvement.
- Talk with them, not at them. Don’t lecture or scold. Ask her what she thinks happened, and if the grade accurately reflects her effort. Hopefully your child will point out some challenges and you can get to solutions. Is your child rushing through tests? Or missing homework? Ask your child what she might need to address the issue, such as better test-taking skills or better organization methods.
- Reward and motivate. Avoid punishing bad grades. Instead, talk to your child about what motivates her, and what she thinks would be effective ways to acknowledge and reward future improvement.
- Set clear expectations and look for balance. Take a step back, talk to your partner, and make sure you’re on the same page. Do you expect straight As? Is that reasonable? Does your child excel elsewhere like sports, STEM, or art? What is a fair balance?
- Talk to the teacher. What does the teacher think is going on? Does your child need some extra help or tutoring? Check in regularly and make sure the teacher knows you want to be a partner in your child’s education. It’s much easier to improve on grades throughout the school year, rather than find out at the end of the school term, when it’s too late to improve.