report cardOh, the dreaded progress report!  Life is busy enough, but then the notice that your child is at risk of failing a class arrives.  Anxiety goes up, the child’s fear increases, and conflict seems just around the corner.  My advice is this:  Don’t get mad, get busy, working yourself out of the job of academic hand-holder in your home. 

Here are the six steps to improve the Report Card:

1.   Discuss with your child their perception of what is causing the problem, i.e. test grades, homework grades, incomplete or hastily completed work, etc.  This involves her in the process and teaches her skills in self-assessment she will need later in life. 

            But don’t stop there.

2.   Call the school and arrange a conference, in person preferably, or at least over the phone.  Ask the teacher to reconstruct your child’s performance and get a sense of the what the teacher sees as the primary problems.

            But don’t stop there.

3.   Consider what you have learned.  Nine times out of ten, the problem with come down to insufficient practice, study, or effort on your child’s part.  But sometimes, a learning disability or ADHD may be emerging, and professional assessment may be necessary.  It is very sad to punish a child for something they cannot control.  If you have tried everything you know to do and nothing has worked, perhaps it is because of another factor that is yet unidentified.  Find out.

             But don’t stop there.

4.   Many parents tell me, “My child is failing, but he tells me he never has any homework.  I don’t know what to do to help him.”  This usually means that the child is either not doing homework that is assigned, or they are hastily completing homework while still at school.  This is where the developing of a strong work ethic is critical to the child’s success.  Get a planner if you don’t already have one, and coordinate with the teacher to have the child write down assignments and get the teacher to sign off on it daily.  Many schools have a web-site with assignments and grades updated daily.  If your school has one, sign up and log on so you can follow daily.

            But don’t stop there.

5.   Inform your child that you are going to set aside one full hour each day for homework.  If she says she doesn’t have any, simply say, “That’s okay honey.  I have some for you to do.”  And be prepared to give them work to do for the full hour.  Drilling on math problems or vocabulary is often a good use of time.  Anything you can think of to help her move ahead.  The truth is, though, that it doesn’t matter much what you have them do.  In a day or two real work they need to do will almost magically appear.  If she has to study, she would rather do the work she is assigned at school than the work you give her.  I have had my children study such arcane things as the parts of a sailboat when they were younger or read Plato or Aristotle when they were older.  But it never lasted more than a few days.  Real homework just showed up.

            But don’t stop there.

6.   Insure that they are actually studying what you have given them.  I know it is time consuming, but you will likely have to stay right there with him.  The good news if that  if you do it for a week or two, he will begin to internalize the habit of studying each day, and then you can retire from the job of homework proctor!

Okay, you can stop there, kick your feet up.  You need only spot check every few days to make sure your child is keeping up the discipline.  Now grab a good book or enjoy a few minutes of your favorite show on TV.  You deserve it!