One of the most common questions I’m asked by parents and educators is how to respond to bad grades.
The first thing to remember is that the child’s report card is the child’s… not ours. While it’s easy to get down on ourselves when kids perform poorly, it’s very important to our mental health and theirs to remember the following:
We can’t learn for kids.
As educators and parents we can up the odds of high achievement by modeling responsibility, establishing a safe and calm environment, providing excellent instruction and demonstrating excitement for learning.
We can’t control every action they take or decision they make.
Secondly, it’s comforting to remember that some of the world’s most successful people have struggled with grades. Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Jim Fay and Dr. Foster Cline are some notable examples. What’s most important is that our children develop good character, curiosity, and problem-solving skills.
Many highly successful people struggled with grades as children.
Thirdly, if we can consistently demonstrate empathy rather than anger or frustration, the odds of them overcoming their difficulties dramatically increase. Is empathy really that powerful? Yes indeed! In fact, a growing body of research is demonstrating that warmth (i.e., empathy) is strongly correlated with higher achievement and better behavior. (If you like reading research studies: Rivers, Mullis, Fortner & Mullis, 2012 and Silt, Hughes, Wu & Kwock, 2012.)
So… let’s remember to respond with sincere love and concern:
Oh man. I bet these grades are really disappointing for you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. The good news is that this doesn’t change the way I feel about you.
Rather than fighting with kids about their grades, consider studying, From Bad Grades to a Great Life! If it doesn’t completely change your life, I’ll buy it back.
Rivers, J., Mullis, A., Fortner, L., & Mullis, R. (2012). Relationships Between Parenting Styles and the Academic Performance of Adolescents. Journal of Family Social Work, 15, 202–216, Spilt, J., Hughes, J., Wu, J. & Kwock, O. (2012) Dynamics of Teacher–Student Relationships: Stability and Change Across Elementary School and the Influence on Children’s Academic Success Child Development, 83 (4), 1180–1195