Dealing with a disappointing school report card can cause lots of stress and arguments for almost all of us. I remember when I was a child, I would hide the school report card and hope my parents would forget to ask for it. Then the disappointment, anger, and threats of more tutoring punishments would come. Not a fun time in my family.
As a family counselor, parenting consultant, and homework expert, I will share five things you can do to handle the disappointing school report card in a way that can increase achievement and decrease frustration.
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1. Say very little.
Most of what we say right away won’t be helpful. Wait an hour or two to gather yourself and think about how to be most effective in dealing with the disappointing school report card issue.
2. Avoid the “D” word.
By D-word, I mean avoid the “disappointed” type phrases. For kids, especially ones that are struggling, this tends to decrease their motivation even more.
3. Ask “How do you feel about these grades?”
Regardless of what they say in the heat of the moment, kids would rather do well and feel successful. Asking them how they feel focuses the issue on the grade instead of on how much trouble they might face.
4. Don’t take the bait.
Some kids will say things like: “I don’t care,” or “C's are average.” or “You expect me to be perfect!” Any of these statements are made in order to get you to react and hopefully back off. Do your best to not react to these statements.
5. Don’t punish right away.
Most punishments we give at the spur of the moment tend to be too severe and don’t work very well. Take some time to think about what would be a good plan to deal with this. In general rewards work much better than punishments when it comes to school work, homework, etc. But that doesn’t mean that you have to go crazy with rewards.
In fact, I would suggest that you consider some of the things your child already gets for nothing and turn them into things he has to earn. For example, instead of saying “No video games until homework is done,” consider a small tweak: “You can play video games after you have shown me your completed work.” It’s a small, but powerful difference in increasing motivation.
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Neil McNerney, M.Ed., LPC is a licensed counselor, adjunct faculty member, speaker, and parenting expert. His dynamic and engaging approach to helping parents is refreshing and effective. He travels nationally speaking to professional and parenting groups on parenting and childhood issues.
For more information about dealing with a disappointing school report card, including how to develop effective consequences, read my book: Homework – A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!