Poor Report Cards?
When your child brings home a less-than-stellar report card, you may not know how to react. While there’s no magic wand to ensure good grades return, there are some strategies you can explore to help your child get back on the right track. After the obvious conversation with your child’s teacher and checking the school handbook for grading policies, experts are here to share tips to help your kid bounce back.
First Reaction and Conversation
“Don’t overreact,” says Wes Harris, instructor at the Kumon Math & Reading Program. Assessing the situation and thinking critically about the child’s situation are the best first steps. Then, ask him, “Is this just a bad grade on one test or has it been happening for a while?” he shares.
A conversation with your child can help you understand what’s going on in the classroom and provide insight to possible solutions. When having that conversation, Kyndal Jacoby, LCSW, a counselor practicing at Baton Rouge Christian Counseling Center, says to avoid adding shame to the situation. “Shame attacks identity. Separate the behavior from identity,” says Jacoby.
Stephanie Crawford, teacher and owner of Best in Class Professional Tutoring adds, “Understand that as frustrated as you are, the child is probably just as frustrated.” Rebuilding your child’s academic confidence is important for a fresh start in the new semester.
Building Study Skills
Helping your child build a solid foundation of study and organizational skills will serve him well throughout his academic career, and help to get his grades up.
It’s important to look at how the student is preparing because the quality of study is crucial. “Try to find ways to make a connection with the student and his or her interests. At Kumon, those are all things we do with our students, making the studying interesting and aligned with what they’re interested in and their goals,” says Harris.
Many times, kids don’t have the skills or have never been taught how to take notes or be organized, Crawford explains. “What kids need is structure and a system that includes a place for everything, and to work on time management,” she advises.
It may be tempting to punish your child for bad grades, but Jacoby suggests natural consequences at first. For teens, that means taking away the phone while studying or studying in the kitchen instead of in their room. “It’s teaching boundaries and maturity,” she says. If grades continue to fall, discipline may need to be more drastic, such as being grounded to allow more time to study.
Improving habits and grades is a mental game as much as it’s about capability. “I truly believe that no matter their challenges, any child can absolutely be a success in the classroom,” says Crawford.
”It’s important for your child to know that he has what it takes to do well, and that you will help him. You don’t want him to spiral. You want him to feel like he has some positives and that he has some skills,” adds Harris.
Jacoby encourages parents to focus on the heart of your child, reminding him to work hard, and that he doesn’t have to be perfect. His effort in the classroom matters more than just the outcome.
No matter the student’s age, when you see slipping grades, it’s best to be proactive. If, after seeking advice from his teacher and school, grades are still falling, a professional may be helpful. Tutors can be invaluable to help your son gain study skills and develop habits he needs to move toward his goals. While parents are likely more than capable of helping their students get organized, most kids have an issue hearing it from their parents.
Both Kumon and Best in Class offer individualized, one-on-one tutoring that can help students get back up to grade level and beyond. Other tutoring options in Baton Rouge include Mathnasium, Sylvan Learning Center and Varsity Tutors. Some schools even offer peer tutoring, which can be an invaluable, and likely free, resource.
If tutoring also doesn’t yield the desired improvement, families should consider testing to determine if there are learning differences at play that can be accommodated in the classroom. Your child’s principal, school counselor, pediatrician and tutor are good places to start looking for referrals.
“Evaluated is not a bad word,” Crawford says. “I’ve never had a child that’s had an educational evaluation who has not come out better for it.” Crawford also says to remember other parents who have had similar experiences, and she recommends reaching out to those you may know for personal advice and recommendations.
Bringing Kids on Board
Getting insight from your kids is the most important part for the success of any grade improvement plan. Crawford explains that while parents may think their way is the best way, it’s important that the child feels like the plan is his own. And Harris agrees, “The more parents can develop intrinsic motivation in a child, the better. The results are important too, but we don’t want to make it all about that.”
Jacoby encourages you both to keep perspective. “The goal is to focus on work ethic rather than grades. And while we do want to progress grade to grade, no one asks you for your second and third grade report cards later in life,” she says.
When it comes to helping your child in the face of slipping grades, be proactive, don’t procrastinate at tackling the underlying issues that may have led to lower grades, advocate for your child, and teach him to self-advocate as well. ■