Could do better
Does school report time cause fear and horror at your house? Here’s how to make the most of it.
It's the end of another term and that means another report to talk about.  What is supposed to be a check point of your child's progress in school can sometimes turn into tears, or worse, apathy. How do you approach the marks and comments with your child so that it is constructive, helpful and helps him or her succeed in class?

  • Go straight to the lowest grades. Go over each grade individually, discussing each one with your child.
  • Criticise too heavily. Your comments can damage your child's self-esteem and discourage future motivation.
  • Simply tell your child to improve his or her grades. Help them to get better grades. Figure out what they might need; for example; a quieter place to study and do homework.
  • Ignore a bad report card. Failure can be scary, but you need to talk openly about it with your child. Reassure your child that poor grades do not mean he or she is a failure.
  • Assume an “A” reflects your child’s best efforts. The work may not be challenging enough and boredom in a subject can cause those marks to drop in the future. Always make sure that good marks have been a result of your child’s hard work.
  • Put too much emphasis on the report card as it may not necessarily accurately reflect his or her strengths and abilities. It does not measure intelligence and it isn’t a predictor of future performance. It is simply a snapshot of your child’s current performance.
  • Over-react to low grades, especially if your child is visibly stressed out. Approach the situation calmly and ask them to talk about why they think they did badly and how they can improve next term.
  • Remember that a report is only one source of feedback about his or her abilities.
  • Talk with your child about his or her feelings about the report before even looking at it yourself.
  • Pay close attention to the teacher's comments. Also ask your child to give feedback on these comments and how he/she feels about them and if the comments are fair.
  • Look at class averages before jumping to conclusions about your child's progress, or lack thereof.
  • Keep talking to your child's teachers, not just at the end of the term.
  • Focus on the positive – this can be a perfect attendance record, a teacher’s comment or a good grade.
  • Ask questions: What work was difficult for you? Could you keep up in class? What do you think of your teacher?

Use the report to help your child
  • Praise all accomplishments.
  • Help your child set realistic goals for next term. Going from a C to an A is not as realistic as going from a C to a B.
  • Look at your child’s work regularly, such as assignments and homework.  This will help you identify trouble spots before it’s too late.
  • Encourage good study habits.  Poor grades may not reflect inability, but rather insufficient effort.  
  • If there are comments or marks from the teacher on other learning skills such as class participation, problem solving and goal setting, take these into account.  They are often a greater predictor of your child’s long-term success than the grades for the subjects.
  • Look for patterns: Perhaps your child does really well in subjects that require strong mathematical reasoning skills, but really struggles in subjects that require a lot of writing.  These patterns will give you a clear idea of where his/her strengths and weaknesses lie and what skills they need to work on in the months ahead.
  • Give specific encouragement.  For example, instead of saying ‘Great job ‘ you could say: ‘You worked very hard to improve your Maths mark this term.  Well done.’
  • For children that consistently bring home good report cards, simply saying “Good job” may soon lose its meaning and have no effect.  Remind your child how he/she got those grades. For example: ‘I am so impressed with these marks and I know it’s because you worked so hard this term.  I saw you do all your homework and put effort into studying and I am very proud of you.’
  • Separate your child from the grades.  Ensure that his/her self-worth is not derived from the marks on that sheet of paper.
Remember that report cards are simply a way for your child’s school to formally record his progress. It is not the final say on how smart he is. Both good and bad reports can always be improved next term.  Make sure that your child is motivated and inspired after your conversation and is ready to tackle next term!

How do you deal with your kid's bad report card?

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