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Talking to Your Child about Report Cards

A child's report card can bring feelings of joy, excitement, and pride; it can also cause concern, frustration, and uncertainty. In either case, the reporting period marks a new beginning to set goals as well as reflect on past work habits, achievements, and hardships. Most important, it is a time for parents to communicate with their children and determine a path for future academic enrichment and social/emotional growth.

Focus on the positive

Regardless of the grades your child brings home, you must first focus on positive aspects of the report. This is not always an easy task. For some parents, this might mean highlighting a strong effort or citizenship grade, or congratulating an academic accomplishment. It could mean praising a perfect attendance record or acknowledging a small improvement shown in a particular area. Starting on a positive note shows your child that you truly care about the accomplishments, not only areas that need improvement.

Ask the right questions

Be careful not to overreact to low grades, or grades you view to be unsatisfactory. Instead, use this time to look at past performance and plan for the future. Talk to your child, asking questions to understand how a particular grade was earned:

  • Was the work too difficult?
  • Could the pace of the class be inappropriate (too fast, so that your child feels "lost," or too slow, causing your child to feel "bored")?
  • Does your child complete all homework and ask questions when problems arise?

The answers you receive might indicate a need to review your child's study habits. Determine whether or not your child is recording all assignments and bringing home all materials necessary to complete them. Does your child have a specific place to study where resources (including someone to answer questions) are available and distractions are minimized? Is your child completing all homework on a nightly basis, or are assignments being turned in late, or not at all? Once you have determined the problem, you can begin to create a solution.

The next step

Creating a plan to maximize future academic success is an important part of every child's education. Help your child set realistic and attainable goals for the next reporting period. Outline ways in which these goals can be met, as well as rewards and consequences if they are not. Type the "official plan" and post one copy in a prominent household location, another in your child's binder, and forward another to her teacher. Involving your child gives her ownership and importance in this process; and this makes the report card important not only to you, but also to your child.

As parents, we want the best for our children, but in too many cases this is measured only by the number of As and Bs brought home. Emphasize to your child the importance of doing the very best job that he can. Encourage him to succeed, and measure his progress in realistic terms, letting him know that you care and are available to help. Break tasks into small steps, so that even the youngest child can measure her growth, and the most advanced child can monitor her progress. By reviewing the report card, and developing a plan for the future, you will help your child find the road to success.

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