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How To Deal With A Bad Report Card (And Make The Next One Better)

Mom helping her daughter do her homework

Bad report cards can be very stressful for both parents and the students receiving them. It can cause tension between you and your child and make for an all-around unhappy situation.

Because of this, many parents don’t know how they should handle a bad report card. Should you punish your child for bad grades? How should you be talking to him or her about the report card?

It can be overwhelming as a parent and a student to know what to do.

But if handled the right way, a bad report card can actually become a productive experience, helping address bad habits and get your child back on track.

Why Did My Child Get A Bad Report Card?

There are many reasons your child may bring home a bad grade—so it’s important to consider all factors that could have contributed to it so you can address the problem properly.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when faced with a bad grade on your child’s report card.

  1. What grade is your child in?
  2. Some grades are tougher than others and cover complex academic skills. Read our Stage-By-Stage Guide To Understanding Report Cards to understand what to expect in different phases of your child’s education.

  3. Does he or she have poor grades in one subject or multiple?
  4. If your child is struggling in a particular subject, it’s a little easier to narrow down the issue. If grades in multiple subjects are suffering, it could be a sign of a larger issue—such as concentration issues or behavioural problems.

  5. Has there been a big life change recently?
  6. If this is the first time your child has received a bad grade, think about things that have happened in his or her life that may have contributed. Changes at home (like a big move) or at school (like beginning high school) can have a big impact on children and lead to falling grades.

  7. Does your child lack interest in what he or she is being taught?
  8. Not all students who struggle with grades are struggling because they don’t understand the material—some are bored and need more of a challenge. A lack of interest in a subject could mean your child isn’t put much effort into the work, leading to poor grades.

  9. What is considered a “bad” grade?
  10. A bad grade can be different for each student and parent depending on perspective. If your child has consistently been getting 50s and now he or she is getting 60s, your child is making good progress, even if those grades aren’t quite where you’d like them to be.

  11. What is the teacher’s feedback?
  12. Consider what comments the teacher has left. Is your child unfocused or disruptive in class? His or her poor grades may come from a behavioural or learning challenge.

    How To Deal With A Poor Report Card

    Better grades don’t happen overnight. Planning a complete strategy to increase grades or teach good academic habits is critical if you want to see lasting improvement. Follow these steps to create an actionable plan for your child’s success.

    1. Stay Calm
    2. Yelling is not a productive way to have this conversation. This reaction will immediately put your child on the defensive and can get out of hand quickly. This can also cause your child to start hiding poor grades from you in the future, so it’s important to stay calm.

    3. Ask About Areas Of Struggle
    4. To really get to the root of the problem, allow your child to do most of the talking in this conversation. Ask open-ended questions about what he or she thinks happened to cause the poor report card. Take notes so you can get a clear idea of what your child thinks is going on.

    5. Ask How He Or She Feels At School
    6. The way your child feels about school (and schoolwork) can affect his or her academic performance. Be on the lookout for certain words your child uses when talking about school—like “bored”, “worried”, or “I don’t know”. These can be signs that your child is overwhelmed, frustrated, and falling behind in school, which can lead to poor grades on report cards.

    7. Take Inventory
    8. How is your child’s current performance in school? Is he or she usually a good student or does your child need a little extra help in a particular area? If you can pinpoint where your child is now and where you would like him or her to go it can help you and your child create a goal timeline.

    9. Set Goals
    10. Work with your child to create small, short-term goals to work toward the larger goal of improved grades. When setting goals, use the C.A.M. goal-setting model to create goals that are Clearly Stated, Achievable, and Measurable.

      Depending on your child’s report card results, these can be goals focused on improving a particular grade or improving a certain study habit.

      For more tips on goal setting, check out these Types Of Goals Your Child Should Be Setting (And Why They’re Important For Success).

    11. Track Progress
    12. Once you and your child have set goals based on the report card results, start tracking his or her progress over the days, weeks, and months before the next report card.

      There are a few ways you can track your child’s progress.

      – Use a goal setting worksheet
      – Check in at regular intervals
      – Ask your child questions about his or her progress
      – Check grades on assignments
      – Adjust the plan as grades on assignments come in

      During these check-ins, make sure to offer plenty of encouragement and praise your child’s progress.

    13. Celebrate Accomplishments
    14. When your child achieves a goal, celebrate! This could be taking the family out for dinner, buying a new toy, or allowing your child more privileges. Having a reward when your child meets a goal is a great way to boost motivation and create goal-setting habits in your child.

      A Bad Report Card Isn’t The End Of The World

      Take a deep breath. These things happen, but it’s not the end of the world. Remember that bad grades do not make your child a failure. Use it as a valuable learning opportunity for your child to improve both academic skills and life skills.

      If your child is struggling and you aren’t quite sure how to help, don’t hesitate to get some outside help. Find an Oxford Learning centre near you and get your child on track to better report card grades.

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