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Report Cards – Don’t Let Them Surprise You

It’s report card time! Even though this can be stressful for students, it can be tough for parents, too! Are you surprised when you see their grades? How do you react? In this article, we’ll answer a few questions parents commonly have and help you deal with the situation.

The purpose of report cards

Sometimes we misunderstand the purpose of report cards. They’re designed to involve your child in the process of getting good grades.  They shouldn’t be an indictment!  Rather, see the report card as a roadmap. Your child is at point A and the goal is to be at point B. Ask yourself what they need to improve in to achieve that goal. And, even better, ask them.

Where do bad grades come from?

So your child has had A’s or B+’s but now you see more C’s than you want to. This may come as a shock. Or your child has promised you that this semester they’ll get only A’s and B’s, but that didn’t happen. Now you’re disappointed. Do you ask yourself What did I do wrong? The best way forward is to include both yourself and your child in resolving such questions.

We started our discussion in the article Where Do Bad Grades Come From. Let’s continue that discussion here, exploring a few more possible reasons. Is your student a teenager? Teens have active social lives and other interests that are more important to them than getting good grades. A sudden drop in grades sometimes indicates a substance abuse problem, which is also linked with teens. Also, a transition to a new school can be very stressful. Plummeting grades can be a sign that a student is being bullied. High achievers often experience a high level of stress and if they can’t handle the pressure, their grades slip.

These are only a few of the possible reasons. The first step toward getting good grades is to determine the cause of the drop in grades. The next step will depend on the cause you’ve determined, but here are some DO’s AND DON’T’s that apply in (almost) every situation.

What DOESN’T help

Talking while you’re angry.

So you saw the report cards and now you’re angry. Haven’t you asked them a thousand times Did you finish your homework/assignments? They told you they did, but it doesn’t look like that. So you might start yelling. Don’t! You’ve tried this already and it doesn’t work, right? Your child probably expects this reaction and has prepared at least ten excuses. It will make them act defensively. Let’s try something different.

Focusing on negative things.

You saw C’s in the report cards, but have you also seen A’s and B+’s? Usually, we focus on what is wrong, what we don’t like, etc. Don’t underestimate what is right. Think about that before you talk with your children. Have they improved in some subjects? Maybe there are more topics that still need improvement, but every step counts.

Labeling the student as lazy, unmotivated…

This doesn’t change their behavior. It can only reinforce it and perpetuate the bad habits they have. However, providing understanding and motivation will probably have a positive effect on their study habits and improve their grades. Here are ways you can do that!

How to help your child get good grades

Student learning at the top of the big books

Talk when you’re ready.

Talking while you’re angry doesn’t work, so wait until you’ve calmed down. Also, prepare yourself. Think about questions you want to ask, the possible causes of a drop, how your student feels, etc.

Talk less, listen more.

Let your student take the lead. Don’t put them in the position of acting defensively – let them tell you how they see the situation. Don’t interrupt them while they’re talking – listen to them carefully. If you don’t understand something they told you, ask them to explain it to you. Talk about feelings, problems, and other intimate stuff. And because these are personal things, try your best to be understanding and supportive. If you act like this, they’ll have confidence in you and tell you something they usually wouldn’t.

Make a deal.

Make a deal with your child that every time they get any grade they’ll tell you about it. Isn’t it better that you find out about bad grades from them rather than in report cards? Make them feel that they can talk to you about problems they’re facing. Offer them help in handling the pressure and school stress. This way, they will more likely tell you when something’s wrong and you can help them deal with it before it has consequences.

Reward.

Another good idea is to offer some kind of reward if they improve their grades. Recognizing students for the work they put in is very important, even more so than rewarding them for better grades. Try with I’m so proud of all the things you’ve learned this semester. That can be anything that’s important to them / they like – for example, you can make them their favorite meal, buy them their favorite snack. or clothes, etc. Who doesn’t like a little reward for hard work? Remember that it doesn’t have to be anything expensive.

 

If your child still has trouble with some topics or with studying, consider asking for help. We offer online coaching and tutoring for academic and personal growth. Here you can find out how we help and feedback from people we’ve helped.

School Stress: High Achievers

Children, especially adolescents, frequently deal with significant stress during their school years. They usually cite academic requirements, school transitions, peer relationships, and over-commitment as their most challenging issues. So it is notable that so-called high-achieving students, almost without exception, are able to excel despite such challenges [2].

Low achievers versus high achievers

There are high and low achievers in every school and the academic disparity between them can often be linked to differences in motivation.

Less accomplished individuals are often more motivated to avoid failure [1]. They try to protect themselves from failing important tasks and the feelings of embarrassment and incompetence which result. When it seems that something is unlikely to be a success, they quickly give up. If they can’t avoid it, they procrastinate or don`t give their best effort. For example, the night before an exam they might decide to clean their room or go to a party. To them, this serves as an excuse for less success or outright failure.

On the other hand, high-achieving students perform much better academically because they have strong motivation to achieve something that’s important and valuable to them, so they’re willing to put in significant, extended effort [1].

High achievers and high levels of stress

Sometimes the stress high-achieving students experience is underestimated. High achievers are often admired and people aren’t always aware of their inner struggles. They’re faced with demands and expectations from themselves, school, their parents, peers, etc. They are trying to be perfect in every area of their lives and cannot permit themselves to make mistakes.

Sometimes parents’ reaction to “not an A+” increases the feeling of stress. Too many parents think that the road to college starts in elementary school and that every grade counts. They ask themselves, How hard should I push my child to get better grades? This is precisely the wrong question. Pushing a child makes the situation even worse. By focusing only on grades, parents lose sight of the importance of social interaction in academic performance.What matters most are not grades, but the habits of mind that children form in elementary school: self-control, goal orientation, responsibility, persistence, and resilience [3].

Students may simply not communicate their distress to the adults who are invested in their achievement or non-achievement [2]. Be aware that the consequences of stress differ. Pay attention if their grades drop rapidly or if they have a high frequency of absences. Personal stress in gifted students can also manifest itself in other ways. They can still excel academically and in extra-curricular performance, but might quietly experience significant stress from heavy commitments in or outside of school. One way to maintain the same level of high performance is to cheat, so it shouldn’t be surprising that high achievers are more likely to cheat.

If you are the parent of a high-achieving child, we have some suggestions for you that will make it easier for you to recognize these “quiet” indicators and help your child handle the pressure through communication and coping strategies.

Ways to deal with the situation

Talk casually and often.

It’s a good idea to talk casually to your child about their feelings and how they’re managing high-stress times in the academic or extracurricular year. Don`t push it! Your efforts could boomerang and the student might withdraw even more. You also need to be aware that you are a role model for your child. So try openly discussing minor stresses you yourself encounter every day and show them that communicating your frustration can help – not only to relieve the stress but also to help find solutions.

Highlight your student’s strengths.

Gently comment when you see them “down” and offer credible comments about personal strengths and resilience. It could be crucial support at a time of vulnerability and reinforces your confidence in their ability to cope. You trust them.

Help a student find “me time”.

Don’t let them over-commit themselves. They need some unstructured, free time with their peers or alone. Model the behavior of taking care of yourself as a parent as well. They need to realize it’s okay to take “me time”. If they’re already over-committed, help them rethink their choices about extra-curricular activities and set priorities. Some activity has to take a back seat to a higher priority one, which will allow them to be even better at the one (or more) they’ve chosen.

Mistakes can be a path to success.

Help them understand that it’s okay to make mistakes and that sometimes mistakes are a learning opportunity. They can teach us to see the positive, and encourage initiative and growth. Expect to make mistakes. Try to persuade them not to judge themselves against others and help them recognize their own progress.

Sharing feelings is good.

Show them that admitting their worries and mistakes is a way to get them out of their head and get advice. Help them realize they aren’t the only ones feeling that way.

 

If you are having difficulty helping your high-achieving student cope with school stress, we have coaches who are trained to help students and their parents manage the demands of being a top performer in school.

 

References:

[1] Beuke, C. (2011, October 19). How Do High Achievers Really Think? Retrieved February 13, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/youre-hired/201110/how-do-high-achievers-really-think

[2] Peterson, J., Duncan, N., & Canady, K. (2009). A longitudinal study of negative life events, stress, and school experiences of gifted youth. Gifted Child Quarterly, 53(1), 34-49.

[3] Tough, P. (2013). How children succeed: grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. Boston: Mariner Books.

 

If you need any kind of advice related to stress connected to the school activities, you’ve come to the right place!

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