How to Deal With a Bad Report Card

When Your Child Brings Home a Bad Report Card

Germany, Leipzig, Parents watching school report of girl
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When your child brings home a bad report card, your first instinct might be to yell and punish, but a bad report card really isn't the end of the world. Knowing how to deal with a bad report card can take some finesse and may require you to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.

Ways to Deal With a Bad Report Card

1. Read the key indicating how the grading system works before reacting. Your child may receive a letter grade tied to a numerical point system, letters indicating progress (such as "I" for "Improving" or "G" for "Grade Level") or have a standards-based report card.

What looks like a bad grade to you may actually not be as bad as it seems.

2. Ask how the grades are weighted. Some teachers give more weight (or emphasis) to tests than to homework. If your child has exceptional grades on his homework but has a hard time taking tests, his grades may reflect this and not his true understanding of the subject.

3. Praise the positive. Somewhere on that report card, there is something to be proud of, even if it's just a good attendance record. Make sure your child knows you're looking at everything and not just the negatives.

4. Talk about the poor grades, but don't lose your temper. There's nothing wrong with letting your child know he hasn't met your expectations. He probably already knows. However, if you're unable to talk about what those expectations are and why he thinks he hasn't met them in a calm manner, he's more likely to be humiliated and ashamed than motivated to work harder.

5. Listen to your child. It may be that he has a million excuses why he has a bad report card, none of which are valid or lay the responsibility at his feet, but he may have some insights, too. Maybe he's distracted or embarrassed to ask for help. Maybe he can't see the board or is tired because he's participating in too many extracurricular activities.

You won't know until you ask.

6. Come up with a game plan so the next report card won't be so bad. This means setting realistic goals for the next quarter and helping your child brainstorm ways to meet these goals. Realistic is the key word here. A child who has all C's and D's on his report card cannot realistically be expected to have all A's next time around, but it's probably not too much to ask to see those grades increase to B's and C's.

7. Provide the supports. Your job isn't done until you've helped your child access the supports he needs to improve his report card. If you have to contact the teacher, don't put if off. If you need to help him outline his time, sit down and do it. Your child is counting on you to help him out, which is not the same as bailing him out.