First report cards for the year have just come out and there are many parents punishing their children as you read this. In addition to removing computer, TV and phone privileges, many also keep their teenagers home from Homecoming or other school activities in response to the bad grades. Some parents yell and scream at their student in response to bad grades, which just further aggravates the problem and does not address any type of solution.
What should you do if you are confronted by a student’s bad grades at report card time?
Stay Calm and Reasonable.
First, homecoming, and other school activities are very important parts of school and are not rewards for good grades. These activities are rights of passage that will bring children warm memories when they are adults. Children who participate in their school activities generally do better overall in school with only minor blips in their academic careers. Yelling, screaming, and over reacting to a bad grade by keeping your teenager home from important school activities will result in your teenager claming up rather than talking to you. Do not make punishment so severe that you incite fear and rebellion.
Be active in your child’s education.
Secondly, parents should have been warned sooner than report card time about impending bad grades from teachers via email or letter so that parents can help and encourage their children towards doing better. If your school does not offer online access to grades, homework information and have open communication with parents, then as the parent you need to do something to help improve this situation.
Write a letter to each of your child’s teachers explain your concerns, provide your email address, phone number and mailing address. Demand that if your child is not turning in homework, participating in class or is otherwise goofing off then it is their responsibility as their teacher to inform you immediately and not allow this behavior to continue. If your child is doing poorly in the class due to some other problem than those mentioned above, tell the teachers that you want to know. Education is a group effort between teacher, child and parent. You cannot help your child or the teacher if you’re not kept in the loop
Show Respect to your child.
Thirdly, a teenager’s self-esteem is more important than one or two bad marks. Yelling at your teenager about these grades is only going to make matters worse. It works much better if you talk calmly to your teenager about the grades. It is more important that you listen to what your teenager has to say. Many teenagers will place blame on the teacher for their grades and sometimes they may be close to the mark, but even if the teenager is wrong about their complaint, it is important to listen to what the child is saying. It is important to acknowledge their feelings. Remember teenagers are not adults yet. They do not have the same powers of reason and intellect that you have developed over the years. After you have listened, you can calmly turn it around so that the teenager can take control and responsibility of their grades regardless if they have a bad teacher or not.
There are many bad teachers out there, probably more bad teachers than good teachers. It is a sad state of affairs but it is the truth. I have both been a student, as well as an administrator and I can tell you that finding truly good teachers is a very difficult job.
Tell the teenager that it is their job to learn what they are supposed to learn, whether they learn it from the teacher, a parent, a tutor, or a friend does not matter, they are responsible for learning. If they are having problems learning from a certain teacher they need to alert you the moment they realize a problem. Follow up on your promise to help your teenager when they do come to you for help. Get tutoring, talk to the teacher, and be involved.
If a teenager is simply not turning in work, address the problem. Tell the teenager that you would like to assist them with their bad teacher but that if they are not turning in all their work you cannot assist them. This requires no yelling on your part. State each fact calmly and with authority. Tell your teenager that you want to be on their side, but you cannot do anything for them to help them if they will not turn in all their work or participate in class. Ask them why they are not turning in their work and if there is some way that you can help them become more organized. When you get an answer, follow through. Find a solution to the problem, one that the student comes up with your guidance. Stick to the solutions and do not back down.
Consequences, not punishment.
You can help your child succeed by being demanding with out yelling, screaming, or punishing. A natural consequence to a bad grade would be to provide more time to study, it is not punishment, it is help. A natural consequence to not turning in assignments is that as a parent your hands have been tied to help your child with a problem teacher, it is not punishment, it is logic.
Rules to live by whether grades are good or bad.
• No TV or “screens” on school nights
• No personal telephone calls on school nights
• No grounding from any school, sporting activity, or job (these are responsibilities)
• Take the computer, phone, and distractions out of your teenagers’ rooms
• Provide time and opportunity to do homework and to study
• Monitor homework via the school website or via communication with teachers and students
• Listen to your teenager; hear what they have to say, acknowledge their feelings
• Advocate for your teenager by demanding personal responsibility
• Communicate with your teenagers teachers
Also please remember, not everyone is cut out to be a rocket scientist. Some people are going to have careers in the service profession, or other non-collegiate careers. There is nothing wrong with that. A hard C, well earned through studying, turning in assignments, and genuine hard work is not a bad grade.
A C is average, and it is acceptable. If your child works hard, yet struggles anyway, instead of getting mad and demanding perfection try steering your child to a career that can accommodate being average academically, yet allows them to be successful. Your child feeling successful and feeling good about themselves now, and when they are adults, is much more important than forcing them to strive for something that may indeed be unreachable for them. A well-rounded balanced life is the most important thing.