I remember the feeling of anticipation and nervousness in elementary school when report cards were handed out. I wasn’t the greatest student but I always did okay, A’s, B’s and once in a while a few C’s. Whatever I did get my parents were pretty cool about it. They knew I was an avid reader and did well in the subjects I loved. That’s why I didn’t get too uptight at the end of each quarter.
There were a few kids in my class whose parent’s weren’t so easy going. They cried if they got a B and dragged their feet home because they were scared to show their report cards to their parents. I always felt bad for those kids.
Now as a parent I can be a little more objective. Today most parents are more involved in their kids academic careers than my parents were and report card time can be stressful for children and parents alike.
Parents may feel that a child’s report card reflects their parenting abilities. They also want their children to enjoy learning and succeed academically. Children just want to please their parents and do well. Parents can have a hard time managing their feelings of disappointment or even pleasure when they review their child’s report card. They can overly praise their child making them uncomfortable. They can also be critical when the report card is less than stellar.
Most mental health professionals feel that parents should not become overly invested in their children’s school work. When parents show too much interest in their kid’s work children become anxious about school. They may become perfectionists or lack motivation to complete simple school tasks themselves. They can also feel that their parents do not care about them as people and are only proud of them if they get good grades.
Parents need to emotionally detach themselves when their children bring home their report card. It should be viewed as a wonderful opportunity to celebrate their successes and help them assess and self monitor their work. Most important it is also the best time to reinforce the message that school and grades are the child’s responsibility.
Here are 8 simple ways to help parents respond appropriately to their child’s report card and ultimately teach kids to be responsible about their schoolwork:
1. It’s private:
When your child brings home his/her report card find a quiet time and place away from their siblings to review it. It is no one else’s business. No one should be allowed to look at someone else’s report card without their permission.
2. Praise appropriately:
Parents should avoid using evaluative terms, like “you are so smart”, you are so intelligent” etc. Children who are praised in this way usually feel pressured to achieve and have trouble keeping up their good work. The best way to praise a child is to focus on their effort. Parents can say, “I have seen you work hard this term- I know you have spent a lot of time and effort on school work. or “This report card reflects a lot of hard work.” If a child has not worked hard and school comes easy to him, parents can say “This report card reflects good understanding of all your subjects.”
3. It’s their report card:
Sometimes parents are objective about their child’s report card but their child still wants their approval or advice. Children may ask their parents: “Are you angry about this ‘C’ that is on my report card?” Parents can respond, “There is nothing for me to get angry about- this is your report card and your responsibility. The question is, are you upset with yourself about the ‘C’?”
4. Don’t get mad, get help:
Children who consistently bring home poor grades should gently be encouraged to seek help. Parents can say, “Math seems to be real tricky for you…are there any resources at school for you- do you think a tutor might help?”
5. Teach them that good values are more important than good grades:
In some schools there is a grade in the area of personal and social growth. There also might be grades for work and study habits. Things like, respecting the teacher and peers, class participation, self control and responsibility. Reinforce good grades in these areas. “Daddy and I think that respecting the teacher and your peers etc. is just as important as any grades in your academic subjects. We are glad to see that is important to you too.”
6. Cultivate a relationship with their teacher:
Any positive comments a teacher makes should be highlighted and reviewed. If a teacher writes that she is pleased with a child’s work, parents can say, ” Mrs. Smith really enjoys having you in her class.” A child will feel more comfortable at school if they know a teacher likes them.
7. Again, it’s their report card:
Parents should encourage children to monitor their own work. Parents need to remember that school is ultimately the child’s responsibility. Parents can say ” What would you like to improve in and work harder on?” “What do you think you need to do to accomplish that?” “Are you pleased with your work this semester?”
8. Reach out:
Parents should be realistic about their child’s capabilities. Parents should not hesitate to contact the teacher and other school professionals if a child brings home a poor report card and they are not living up to their potential.
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