When Your Child’s Grades Take a Nosedive
By Dr. Kenneth Shore
If homework is the number one culprit in causing parent-child conflict, report cards run a close second. Responding to your child’s poor report card in a helpful manner without giving rise to a battle can be a challenge. You need to walk a fine line between not dwelling excessively on her grades while not dismissing them as unimportant. Grades are certainly important but you need to keep in mind that a report card is neither a measure of your child’s worth nor of your parenting ability.
In responding to your child’s declining grades, first take note of what you should not do. Angry rants or harsh criticism are unlikely to be constructive and may even give rise to a further decline of her grades. Rather, try to adopt a low-key, calm but serious approach in which you express concern about her performance and then problem-solve with your child about how to improve. Bear in mind that poor grades can demoralize a child and sap her confidence. Thus, part of your job may be to bolster your child’s confidence so that she feels better about herself and doesn’t give up in school.
Try to find something to praise in your child’s report card. It may be that she did well in a particular subject, or that she often participated in class, or that she was diligent in returning homework. Then talk with your child about the subjects she struggled with and try to identify the source of the problem. Is the work too hard? Conversely, is the work so easy that your child is bored and thus not putting forth effort? Is she handing in homework consistently? Is she having trouble following directions? Is she having difficulties performing on tests? Is she having a problem focusing in class? You may need to confer with the teacher to get answers to some of these questions.
Once you understand the source of your child’s difficulties, work with her to develop a plan of action. Determine what your child needs to do differently and whether extra help is needed. Should homework be monitored more closely? Does she need help studying for tests or organizing herself? Is tutoring called for? If her standardized test scores are very low, consider whether she should be evaluated for a learning disability.
For some children poor grades result from a half-hearted approach to schoolwork. If this is the case with your child, you may need to help her reorder her priorities. If television watching is keeping her from studying, don’t hesitate to set some limits. If your child’s busy schedule is getting in the way of schoolwork, something will have to give. Make sure it is not schoolwork!