Now that we have a perspective on how to interpret the grades that your child comes home with, the next question is:
How should you react?
…it’s often a parent’s natural reaction to say things like: “Wow, that’s awesome! You’re just so smart. I always knew you were a natural at math.”
However, this type of praise may do more harm than good. Instead, focus on praising effort, because it’s something kids feel like they can control (unlike their intelligence or natural abilities). Also, though it is indeed time to celebrate good grades as a victory, keep in mind that it’s possible to go overboard with rewards and incentives.
First things first, spend the time to figure out what’s going on. There are usually one of two reasons for bad grades.
Reason One: They don’t have mastery of the content.
This means that even though they do the homework, they do extra credit, and they turn things in on time, they’re not “getting” the material. They’re very organized, but they don’t do well on tests, especially unit tests and midterms
tests that cover material over a longer period of time.
If this is the case, your child may not be absorbing the class content
appropriately, and might need to work on their study skills.
Alternatively, despite their best efforts, they may need some one-on-one help from you, a teacher, or a subject tutor who can help bring them up to speed.
Reason Two: They have difficulty with organization and executive functions.
These are usually the kids that get great test scores, but don’t turn in their homework. Their projects are often late. They seem disorganized. They don’t know when things are due.
For students who fall into this category, it’s usually difficulty with executive functions and/or lack of organization skills that’s causing their low grade, not content mastery.
Once you’ve determined which camp your child is a part of, it’s time to start looking forward rather than dwelling on what happened in the past.
Our natural reaction as a parent is to say:
“Well, what could you have done differently?”
“You know, you should’ve done this or you should have done that.”
Instead of looking back, look forward and say:
“You know what? I can tell that you’re disappointed. Now that you know what material is covered and you know how your teacher teaches, what might you do going forward?”
That’s a better question.
Finally, if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide to handling poor grades, I highly recommend you give our full post on this subject a read: