How you can help your child
For many parents, poor grades are a source of concern. Is your child facing an educational speed-bump that could put their plans for the future on hold?
It’s the time of year again that brings the stress of receiving your child’s end-of-year results. Their results could, at worst, eliminate their future possibilities altogether. Perhaps your child’s report results weren’t quite what you expected? You know your child and you know they are capable of so much more.
Adding to the stress is the fact that report cards can be confusing for many parents. Changing curriculum and reporting standards mean that end-of-year reports are often filled with jargon and terms that mean nothing to us as parents.
We want to lose our temper, take away our children’s privileges and demand more from them. But is this the best way of getting the best from our children?
A more gentle and soft approach, may in fact, lead to better results.
Firstly, you need to understand why their results aren’t as ‘fantastic’ as you think they should be. Only then will you be able to work out how to get their results back on track. To do this, and to make sure you are setting realistic expectations, follow these simple steps …
1. Talk With Your Child’s Teacher
If your child’s report doesn’t provide any detail about why they received the marks that they did, ask the teacher.
Could it be because your child did not understand the concepts covered? Or are they not handing in their homework or assignments? Did they perhaps just barely miss the cut-off for a higher mark?
It can be difficult to hear that your child is achieving what you consider to be average results, despite the fact that they are working as hard as they possibly can.
As a parent, you should always keep in mind that academic performance doesn’t remain the same throughout your child’s academic career. A period of average results does not mean your child will always perform at that level. As children go through the process of ‘growing up’, they experience ups and downs in all areas, including academics. After all, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
A good teacher will help you understand the reasons your child has received the marks they did, so that you are able to respond appropriately and make the necessary changes.
2. Talk With Your Child
When you talk with your child about their report, try to ascertain if they have a realistic view of their situation. For example, your child may think they only sometimes forget to complete their work or assignments. But their teacher might reveal a consistent pattern of them neglecting their work.
Your child might also be under the impression that, because they have always done well in Maths before, they don’t need to worry too much about applying themselves in that subject. However, as Maths becomes increasingly abstract, some kids struggle and may need to put in extra effort. Their teacher can point you and your child in the right direction, and help provide remediation if necessary.
Often, lower than expected results can simply reflect the curriculum becoming more involved. Science, for example, can become more difficult for some children with the introduction of memorisation and lab work. When the curriculum becomes more difficult, your child will need to work harder just to maintain their results.
It’s also possible that your child has an especially strict teacher. If your child’s teacher is tough but fair, try to see it as a blessing even if it means lower marks. Children often learn more from tough teachers and tend to look back on them fondly.
It is very important to start the conversation with your child by praising the positive first. Congratulate them, not only on high results, but also on getting better grades in subjects they previously had difficulty with. Ask them which grade they are proudest of and why. Involve them in discussions about their successes and challenge them to explain how they got such a good result. It is far more useful to ask, “What went right?” for a good result to see how that achievement can translate to other more difficult areas.
When talking with your child about problem areas, focus on discussing the class itself. Ask if the work was too difficult or if the class went too fast. For example, if Maths is “useless” and “boring,” find ways in the future to show them how Maths is used in subjects they love, from shopping to computer games.
Also ask about homework. Were they getting enough time to complete it or were extra-curricular activities taking up too much time after school? If your child doesn’t have a special homework area, spend some time over the holidays with them brainstorming and creating a new study space for next year. We’ve written an article with tips on creating good study habits.
3. Reflect on Your Own Expectations
Before over-analysing your child’s results, consider whether these results truly reflect your child’s strengths. If your child gets 80% and 70% in most subjects and 60% in one subject, it might not be something to worry too much about, as long as your child is making progress.
Many teachers are starting to express their concern that their learners are increasingly worried that they must get 80% or more in every subject to please their parents. For a small number of gifted learners, a perfect report is attainable. But for most students, the idea of being a ‘straight-A’ student is unrealistic.
Keep perspective and be sure that your expectations are realistic at all times. The most important thing is that your child is learning. If they are progressing, that’s good. If they are falling behind, help and support them to get back on track.