How To Talk To Your Kids About Grades

A bad grade. It happens to everyone at some point, but as a parent, it can feel particularly painful.

As an adult, you likely have a much better understanding of what’s at stake in school, but perversely you now have much less control. It all comes down to convincing your child to put in the work and turn things around. Here’s how we recommend approaching that delicate conversation.

Setting Expectations

Start by creating a home environment where students feel they are being held affectionately accountable. Rather than intimidating your child into doing their work, discuss and set practical goals that they should strive for throughout the academic year. Let your child steer the ship here by asking them what courses they will be taking, and what grades they feel they are capable of achieving. Allow them to be open and honest about how they feel going into the new academic year. If there’s specific subject matter that intimidates them, offer to help them with their homework or to set up after school tutoring. These goals should include a reward system, which doesn’t have to be lavish. Sometimes just an extra hour of television one night is enough to motivate a good grade on a test!

Checking In

It’s best to check in with your child on how things are going at least once a week. These don’t need to be formal sit down meetings. You may feel pushback or hesitation from your child when trying to broach the topic of grades—that’s totally understandable. Try to relate as much aspossible to what they are going through. We’ve all had a subject, test or assignment that was difficult. Sharing your previous difficulties in school will allow your student to feel more comfortable coming to you with their own.

Assessing and Improving

Once your student starts receiving graded work, be positive even if the grade isn’t what you hoped for. Chances are your child is just as upset about a poor grade as you are, and getting angry about it isn’t going to change things. Instead, try to identify why the grade was bad. Ask them how they studied or completed the assignment. Ask them if they felt they needed additional help or resources. Once you locate what the problem is, try to find proactive solutions. Often this will involve helping your student craft a perfectly worded email to their teacher asking to set up a time to speak about the grade. Speaking with a teacher after receiving a less than stellar grade is the bestway to learn how to fix things!

Once your student has identified the issue, help them create a game plan for the next exam or assignment. This could mean outside tutoring, creating a study group with fellow classmates, meeting weekly with the teacher to review course topics or all of the above. The important thing is that your child is the one setting these things up and taking an active role in their owneducation.

After a generation of tiger moms and helicopter parents, there has been some recent backlash to the idea that parents should take a hands-on approach to their child’s schooling. One recent publication claimed that parents should avoid outcome-based questions, including those about grades and test scores, and that conversations with your child regarding school should be limited to four-minute increments. While there is such a thing as excessive handholding, we believe this form of laissez-faire parenting is an overreaction and can be damaging to your child’s academic performance and confidence as a student. As a parent you still have agency in your child’s education and an active role to play in helping them become the best student that they can be.

Essay Analysis: Yale University 2018-19