I guess I was lucky at school to be one of those straight A students, as I can still remember the absolute dread with which many of my friends received their report cards at the end of the year. Not that they cared too much about the marks themselves – it was the fear of facing their disappointed parents that caused the term-end blues. So heading towards that dreaded day, what can we do as parents to help our kids to address any problem areas without damaging their self-esteem or love of learning?
I think the answer to this comes in looking at what a report card really is. First off, it is NOT a measure of who your child is as a person. They may have failed the year, but they are not a failure. As parents we really have to help our kids to make the distinction between who they are and what they do, and the best way to do this is to express our unconditional love for them no matter what the report card says.
A report is simply a measure of how a child managed to perform on certain standardized tests. If they come back with a low mark, it does not help to attack them for their “laziness” or anything else. What we need to do is assess what went wrong where. And this may even have nothing to do with the child themselves – it may be that the teacher was incompetent, or the test was not an accurate measure of what was learned, or it may be a reflection of other issues – family problems, changes at home or at school, bullying… there are so many things going on in our children’s lives that we will miss if we simply blame them without digging deeper.
On the other hand, we also need to be careful of over-praising a child with a “good” report. Once again, the report is not a measure of who the child is or their worthiness of our love and attention. Many over-achievers get the idea early on that they are only loved if they perform well and this sets them up for a life of stress and workaholism! The opposite may also be true, with children who are praised for good work giving up sooner or never even trying things that they may not be good at for fear of losing this “good girl/boy” status.
The appropriate response to a report card, in my opinion, is to ask the child what they think about their own report. Ask them how they feel about areas they struggled in and how you could assist them. Ask them how they feel about areas they did well in and if they need any additional stimulation. Use the report card as a discussion around what is going on in their lives and at school, and not as a measure of their self worth. If they have failed something, it is a great opportunity to discuss some of the great failures in history and how they never gave up.
And regardless of what it says, give them as big hug and a kiss and tell them you love them no matter what.