As parents we must be realistic about our expectations, while we really want our children to be successful, not all children will be able to achieve an ‘A’.
Whether it is one bad grade or an underwhelming report, report cards are a stressful time for children and parents alike.
While a negative report can be disappointing for parents it is important not to let disappointment or anger get the better of you, as it will only make things worse. A parent’s reaction will greatly impact a child’s motivation, self esteem and sense of their own capabilities. Be sure to acknowledge any improvements and think in a proactive and positive way.
Children don’t usually set out to deliberately disappoint or upset their parents, so rather than reacting straight away, give yourself time to talk when you are both calm. Children will be happier to share how they are feeling in a safe and accepting environment. To get the most out of this moment make sure you wait for the right time.
How to prepare your child for school
Special times. Set aside a few minutes at a regular time each day when you can give your undivided attention to your child. This quiet calm time – no TV, iPad or phones - can be a confidence builder for young children. As little as five minutes a day can make a difference.
How to prepare your child for school
It is important not to consider an unsatisfactory report as your failure, instead help your child take responsibility for what may be challenging them, and work out a plan of action together to help them improve. Show your child that you believe in them and that they have the ability to do better next time by offering them support, guidance and attention.
Dr Anna Cohen, Sydney’s leading Clinical Child Psychologist offers advice on positive steps you can take to deal with your child’s disappointing school report in a constructive way, which will help boost their self esteem and your confidence that they can improve.
A bad report can really hurt your child's self esteem. Image: iStock.
Ask your child what they think will help
It will be important to include your child in the conversation and give them the chance to share how they are feeling. It is also important to find out if there is any underlying issue affecting them at school.
Talk to their teachers
Organise a meeting with your child’s teacher, as they will have a good sense of where they are struggling. It is important not to blame teachers for a bad school report, as they will want their students to succeed and will be doing what they can to help struggling students.
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Your child’s teacher should be able to tell you where they need help and suggest steps you can take to help them improve. View your child’s teacher as a partner in your child’s development, and remember that you don’t have to wait until the next report, you can check in regularly over the school year. Having a meeting with your child’s teacher will help you to determine if the poor result is due to a lack of ability, or lack of effort or a problem with organisation.
Once you what you are dealing with then you can create a plan. Parents also need to understand that a child receiving a“C” is performing at grade level.
Create a realistic plan of action
After you have narrowed down areas that need improvement with your child’s teacher, sit down create a realistic plan for improvement together. This will ensure that your child feels heard and they know you are on their side. If there are specific areas of concern, look at how they might have improved in other subjects and see if they can apply that to where they are struggling. It will be important to look beyond the grades and consider effort and time spent on school homework.
Don’t be too critical towards your child’s exploration of the Internet. Children may come across adult material by accident on the web. Also, a child may intentionally search for such websites; remember that it is natural for children to be curious about off-limits material. Try to use this as an opening to discuss the content with them, and perhaps make rules for this kind of activity. Be realistic in your assessment of how your child uses the internet.
Have an open conversation with your child about where they're struggling. Image: iStock.
While a report card may be disappointing, it can be tempting to react critically, however shaming and blaming will only make things worse. Statements that convey to a child that they are useless and can’t do anything, can have a damaging effect of staying with young people for a long time and become their internal self-talk. Having an open and positive conversation when both of you are calm will boost their self esteem and give them confidence and motivation to work towards improvement.
Help them get organised
Once you have figured out where your child needs to improve, putting it into action will involve creating a structured and positive learning environment. Give your child more stability, supervision and support by breaking down what needs to get done and when they will do it. This will avoid them feeling overwhelmed and help to boost their confidence. Underwhelming grades may also reflect a lack of effort or time for homework, consider cutting back extra-curricular activities and set small goals to work toward.
Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.
Young children are still developing through mistakes they make. A report card can be used as an important learning tool to motivate and encourage improvement. It will be crucial that expectations are a good match for your child’s age and their capabilities to ensure you are not expecting too much from them.
Children need us to nurture their minds and souls through ongoing support and having a positive attitude to reassure them that they are capable of being successful and improving. As parents we must be realistic about our expectations, while we really want our children to be successful, not all children will be able to achieve an ‘A’.
Dr Anna Cohen is one of Sydney’s leading child clinical psychologists. For more information or professional advice, visit her website .