Talking to Your Child about His Report Card
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
The arrival of report cards is often anticipated with anxiety by children and greeted with disappointment by parents. While poor grades often trigger conflict between parents and children, they help answer the following important questions: Is your child mastering the course objectives? Is he progressing as expected? Is he keeping pace with his classmates? Does he need extra help or a special program? Can he move on to the next grade?
The report card is also a motivational tool. Almost all children want to get good grades. Most feel better about themselves when they get more A’s and B’s than C’s and D’s. And they come to realize (although sometimes too late) that high school grades affect opportunities down the road. The good things that good grades bring are usually sufficient to spur students to work hard. Poor grades may even serve as a wake-up call for unmotivated students.
Talking with your child about his report card in a helpful manner without provoking a confrontation can be a challenge. While you do not want to dwell excessively on his grades, nor do you want to dismiss them as unimportant. We know that grades can affect a child’s self-esteem and can shape his future educational and career opportunities. At the same time we know that good grades are not the ultimate pursuit.
In responding to your child, make sure to find something positive to say about his report card. It may be he brought up his grade in a particular subject, or that he was an active participant in class, or that he was diligent about turning in homework. If the grades suggest he is struggling in one or more subjects, ask questions of your child to try to identify the source of the problem. Is the work too difficult? Is boredom keeping him from putting forth effort? Is the teacher hard to follow? Is he handing in homework consistently? Are tests his downfall? Is he having trouble focusing in class?
But don’t stop there. Try to develop a plan with your child to make needed changes. In considering what changes might be needed, consider the following questions: Is his homework routine in need of revision? Does he need to alter his method of studying for tests? Does he need assistance in keeping track of his work and organizing his materials? Should his outside activities be curtailed? Is tutoring called for? Is he a candidate for evaluation by the school district’s evaluation team to determine if he has a learning disability. Every public school has an evaluation team that is responsible for evaluating children to assess the presence of a learning disability and determine whether special education is warranted.