For many families, dealing with a disappointing school report card can cause lots of stress and argument.

I remember more than once, when I was a child, I would hide the school report card and hope my parents would forget to ask for it. Then the disappointment, anger, and threats of more tutoring punishments would come. Not a fun time in my family!

disappointing school report cardAs a family counselor, parenting consultant, and homework expert, I will share six things you can do to handle the disappointing school report card in a way that can increase achievement and decrease frustration.

  • Say very little at first. 

Most of what we say right away won’t be helpful. Wait an hour or two to gather yourself and think about how to be most effective in dealing with the disappointing school report card issue. 

  • Avoid the “D” word. 

By D-word, I mean avoid the “I’m really disappointed” type phrases. For many kids, especially ones that are struggling, hearing that they have disappointed us tends to decrease their motivation even more.  

  • Ask “How do you feel about these grades?” 

I have not met a kid yet who really wants to do poorly in school. Regardless of what they say in the heat of the moment, kids would rather do well and feel successful. Asking them how they feel refocuses the issue on them instead of on how much trouble they are in for bringing home a disappointing school report card.

  • Don’t take the bait. 

Some kids will say things like: “I don’t care,” or “A C is average. What’s the big deal?” or “You expect me to be perfect!” Any of these statements are made in order to get you to react and hopefully back off. Do your best to not react to these statements. In fact try to ignore them, especially if this isn’t the first time they have brought home a disappointing school report card.

  • Ask “What is your plan?” 

Don’t start with telling them what is going to happen and how things need to be different. Instead, ask him what he plans on doing about this. If the answer is “I don’t know,” or a generic “Try harder,” then tell him, “If you don’t develop a plan to deal with this, I will develop a plan. I have a feeling you will like your plan better than mine.” This gets him to take more responsibility before you take over.

  • Don’t punish right away. 

Most punishments we give at the spur of the moment tend to be too severe and don’t work very well. Take some time to think about what would be a good plan to deal with this. In general rewards work much better than punishments when it comes to school work, homework, etc.  But that doesn’t mean that you have to go crazy with rewards.

In fact, I would suggest that you consider some of the things your child already gets for nothing and turn them into things he has to earn.  For example, instead of saying “No video games until homework is done,” consider a small tweak: “You can play video games after you have shown me your completed work.” It’s a small, but powerful difference in increasing motivation.  

Neil McNerneyNeil McNerney, M.Ed., LPC is a licensed counselor, adjunct faculty member, speaker, and parenting expert. His dynamic and engaging approach to helping parents is refreshing and effective. He travels nationally speaking to professional and parenting groups on parenting and childhood issues.

For more information about dealing with a disappointing school report card, including how to develop effective consequences, read my book: Homework – A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!