How to talk to your kids about bad grades

Katya , 06-28-2016

Watching your precious kid fail in school makes you feel helpless, angry and sad. You worry about everything from child’s self-esteem, cognitive abilities, teachers, curriculum as well as your own parenting skills.

First, stop yelling and punishing you kid. It does not work in a long run.

Second: Accept the fact that your child’s grades are not a reflection of your or your child’s brightness. School measures one aspect of intelligence and there are many!

Third: Not every person is good at every subject. Instead of automatically grounding your child because of bad grades, ask him what happened and if he needs help? Did he skip class or make careless mistakes?

1. “What part did you play in this?”

That’s what you want your child to identify because that’s all he can change. The lesson stems from there. Your child might say, “I don’t know what part I played, Dad.” You can respond by saying, “Well, let’s think about it. Where did you get off track? Where did things go wrong for you?” If your child doesn’t know, you can say, “Well, it seems to me you got off track when you didn’t have your homework ready when your teacher called on you. The part you played was not being prepared. And the solution to that is getting prepared.” Your child may agree with you, or he may try to offer some defense. But any defense that’s offered is not going to be legitimate as long as you’re speaking in the context of “What part did you play?” You just need to point out, “Well, it seems to me like you’re making an excuse for not having your homework done.” Or “Seems to me you’re blaming me for not having your homework done.” Or “It looks to me like you’re blaming your teacher for not having your homework done.”—whatever the case may be.

2. “What are you going to do differently next time?”

So it’s, “What are you going to do differently the next time when you have to do your homework?” Or “What are you going to do differently next time so that if your teacher calls on you, you won’t get embarrassed?” Or “What are you going to do differently next time to pass the test?” This is a big question in this conversation with your child, because it gets him to see other, healthier ways of responding to the problem.

3. “What did you learn from this?”

“What did you learn from being embarrassed when your teacher called on you?” “What did you learn from not passing the test?” Put the responsibility back on your child. If you take his responsibility over, it’s just going to become a power struggle. With all the problems that exist in education today, the last thing you need is to be in a power struggle with your child’s teacher.

Now you may say, “Well you don’t understand, my child’s teacher is different.” I do understand that. There are effective teachers and ineffective teachers.

But let me ask you this: when is your child going to learn to deal with ineffective teachers? Where do you think your child is going to learn to deal with injustice? Part of learning—for everyone—involves feeling uncomfortable at times. Part of loving your child responsibly means that you need to let him feel discomfort, and even fail, as long as he’s learning how to be accountable for his actions in the process.

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