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How to Respond to Bad Grades

It’s that time of the year: report card season. Throughout the DC area, parents will be receiving their child’s report cards this week. But what happens if your child brings home a bad grade? Educational Connections’ President, Ann Dolin, recently sat down with the ladies over at Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live to discuss how parents should respond to a bad grade. Click here to watch the full clip, or read on for answers to parent’s most frequently asked grade related questions.

What do I do if my child gets a bad grade?

The first thing you want to do is to make sure you do not react in the moment. Instead, wait until you’ve calmed down a little bit and schedule a time to talk. Say to your child, “let’s sit down after dinner to talk about this.” This will help to avoid a screaming match!

How do I talk to my kids about a bad grade?

Once you’ve scheduled a time to talk about the student’s progress, you’re going to want to start the conversation off with the phrase, “I noticed” and avoid saying, “you.” Often this will alleviate any feelings of blame and allow for a more open discussion. For example, you might say, “I noticed that your math grade is a lot lower than we both thought it would be. Help me understand what happened,” rather than, “You did not do well in math. This is unacceptable.” The phrase, “help me understand,” will give your child a chance to explain himself and explain what went wrong. Listen to what your child has to say and state the feeling. Try saying, “it sounds like you’re having a hard time with algebra and it’s making you frustrated.” By stating the feeling (but not dwelling on it), you’ve shown your child that you’re on their team. From there you’ll want to ask questions like, “what do you think you can do to get the grade up?” This will create a sense of accountability and also make your child come up with a solution. Because your child helped to create the solution, he or she will be more invested and more likely to follow through.

Should I punish my child for a bad grade?

The instant you see a less-than-stellar report card grade, it’s probably your immediate reaction to punish and restrict activities. So many parents threaten to take their child out of sports or extra-curricular activities. But you’ll want to fight that urge. The research says that parents should avoid taking away activities that boost their child’s confidence, such as sports or clubs. With that being said, it is recommended to tie privileges (like video game time, or time out with friends) to academic processes. For example, you may say to your child, “when you show me that your homework is completed with a respectful attitude, then you can play video games for 30 minutes. Try using a “when/then” phrase to boost accountability and tie actions to rewards.

Should I reward for grades?

If your instant reaction to a bad grade isn’t to punish for it, it’s probably to offer some form of reward. I’ve talked to parents who have tried offering their child just about anything and everything for straight A’s from money to a new car to a trip to Disney World. But unfortunately, no matter how grandiose the reward, the straight A’s never come. Research tells us that rewarding for grades doesn’t work because it’s too long-term and students lose steam pretty quickly.

Why is my child getting a bad grade?

Students often bring home bad grades for one of two reasons: they don’t understand the content or they don’t have the ‘soft skills’ necessary to succeed. If it is a contextual issue, then it is usually isolated to one subject (often math/science or English/history). However, if the student is struggling with ‘soft skills’, things such as organization, time management, and study skills (also known as executive functioning skills), it will probably affect every subject. Discuss the issue with your child’s teacher, consider enrolling the child in a homework club after school, or seek out a tutor who can focus on your child’s areas of concern.

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