You know the scenario – Your child comes home with a maths test and presents it to you for a sign off. You see circles in red ink and the dreaded 3/10! A typical initial parental reaction is “What? Did you study?” Often parents at this point will yell or are tempted to yell, but then you look at your child’s bowed head, red cheeks, tears of disappointment ….and stop ….sign the paper …and send them on their way.
The question is have you done the right thing? Education experts say a parent’s reaction to poor grades plays a formative role in children’s identity and development of self-esteem and can pave the way for their future education success or failure. So what can we as parents do that’s positive and ensure we don’t let bad marks prevent academic success?
Our children’s identity develops from age 7. They start noticing if they are tall, short, the colour of their hair and eyes …and asking questions like “am I smart?” or “am I stupid?” If we start punishing or yelling at our child for receiving poor marks, this will only make them feel that perhaps they are stupid and hence won’t result in them suddenly achieving A’s!
Pushing workbooks and extra homework won’t cut it either. This can just breed resentment towards the parent and increase the child’s anxiety. As parents we can become a little obsessed with marks. We know our child’s marks are meant to demonstrate how well they did, or how they are performing in a given subject, but there is a more positive approach we can take to this issue.
Positive points of assistance
Some things that we can do to ensure bad marks don’t always leave their mark on our children’s self-esteem and academic futures are:
Soft learning skills - We should place emphasis on their soft learning skills, such as working well with others, asking for help from a Teacher or Tutor and developing positive work habits. They might be able to get A’s through high school, but if you don’t have these soft skills you aren’t going to do well in life.”
Positive re-enforcement - As parents we should worry about the comments the teachers are posting in the books and on their tests. If positive, encouraging messages are given to a child, you will find their marks will go up, providing this positive reinforcement is built upon.
Set long term learning goals - My previous blog “7 steps to set mid-year
academic goals,” expresses the importance of setting learning goals. Teach your child to work towards a positive learning ‘goal,’ rather than just doing well with immediate tests and grades, as this can help develop a lifelong enjoyment of learning rather than pressure to always get A’s. Our children have plenty years of school and we should make sure they are prepared and supported in a significant way.
Notice warning signs
So we are not going to measure our child’s success by grades, but you also can’t ignore poor marks. This can be a sign that your child is struggling at school and needs a little extra help. Improving grades begins with a positive parent-child relationship. The child needs to know you are on their side by helping them figure out a way forward. This can be done by:
Health checks - doing a few simple health checks with your family GP, an eye test or an auditory test to see if this is possibly causing your child to suffer at school.
Teacher partnering - The next step would be to sit down and discuss your child’s marks with their teacher to see if there is a concern that your child may have a learning disability, or any need to take your child for testing with an Educational Psychologist.
On-going support and genuine empathy - Talk to your child about school and about their favourite subjects. Get involved in their extra-curricular activities and being part of their school life beyond the report card. This makes education a priority for the entire family. Children develop at different stages, so be patient and show love and support
Tutoring - Once the above is established you may need the help of a Tutor to assist your child in the subjects they may be struggling. A Tutor will help a child understand what they are learning by going back to the basics and will make the material meaningful to their lives. We don’t suggest inundating them with work, but rather something interesting. If your child struggles with English writing skills, for example, then the Tutor would encourage them to write a letter to their friend or aunty about their holiday. Having a Tutor will relieve pressure on a child as they know they have the ‘one-on-one’ support at home to help them with the work they don’t understand …and over time you will start to see your child’s confidence and marks increase!