Your Child's Report Card- Helpful Tips for Parents
It’s report card season!
Many children will be coming home this week with those little brown envelops filled with feelings of anxiety, fear, and a report card. Report card day tends to be a stressful time for both parents and students, it can also be a satisfying and joyful occasion for others. Report card time is never experienced the same by everyone.
I’m going to ask you to stop for a second. If you’re reading this while you’re caught up in something else.. I’m going to ask that you stop whatever you’re doing or thinking and just think of your answer to these next questions:
- How did I feel when I was (child’s age) bringing home a report card for my parents?
(Did you peek? Were you sad? Did you compare your grades to your friends?)
- How did my parents react to my report card?
(Were they upset? Did they “freak out?” Did you get into trouble?)
- When was the last time I was evaluated for anything I did, and how did it feel?
- How do I think my own children feel when they bring home a report card?
- Do I make it a positive experience?
How you react to your child’s report card can impact his or her motivation, self-esteem and sense of control over his learning. Depending on the spoken or unspoken academic expectations, your child may be worried that she has let you down and may be feeling embarrassed or very disappointed in herself. On the other hand, ‘you’ might feel as if you are not being a “good enough” parent and you may begin to feel a pitted sense of failure deep down inside. Before report cards come home, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself these three important questions.
- What do my child’s report cards mean to me?
- What are report cards for?
- How can this make it a positive experience?
Once you are clear on what report cards mean to you and your child, here are some tips on how to turn report card time into a constructive learning experience instead of a choice between a positive or negative encounter.
Before you open the report, remind yourself to take a deep breath and choose your words, and facial expressions carefully. Whether your child brings home very good grades or poor ones, your reaction may have a greater impact on your child than you realize.
A recent University of Michigan study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, offers some useful advice.
Researchers asked parents of nearly 500 US children how they would respond if their 11- to 13-year-old child brought home a report card with lower-than-expected grades or progress.
They sorted those responses into two broad categories – “punitive” vs “proactive” – and then investigated whether the parents’ responses predicted better or worse school results five years later.
The study found that children whose parents said they would respond by lecturing, punishing or restricting their child’s social activities actually had lower levels of literacy and maths achievement by the end of high school.
On the positive side! ..The University of Michigan study and others have shown that children growing up in a cognitively stimulating home environment – characterised by things like access to books, musical instruments, and trips to the museum – are likely to show higher levels of achievement in reading and maths in high school.
Other evidence also points to the value of creating a less punitive and more nurturing environment with warm, consistent and responsive parenting, though still with limits and boundaries for their children.
Such an environment not only stands to enhance your child’s academic achievements, but many aspects of their biological, social, emotional and behavioural development too.
More than one child bringing home a report card? When you have more than one school age child it is important to be on the alert for sibling rivalry and make sure no one assumes a superior attitude or ends up feeling bad about themselves. Never compare your children’s report cards and try not to praise one in front of the other. Instead, use this opportunity to instil respect for their differences and the uniqueness of them as individuals. This is a fitting time to reaffirm the appreciation of various strengths and weaknesses and discuss their value!
Pay attention to the things that matter most when your child shares his or her report card with you. If you only focus on the letter or number grades they received it will only accentuate evaluation and competition. A better alternative is to concentrate on the learning process and ask questions such as - What did you learn this grading period (in science, math, art. etc.)? What was most enjoyable to you? What came easy to you this time? What do you think you could have changed or done differently? What will your strategy be for the next grading period? What assistance do you need to accomplish these goals? Fuelling a conversation such as this will encourage your child to become more mindful about their learning experience.
Focus on the positive. Regardless of the grades your child brings home, you must first focus on the positive aspects of the report. This is not always an easy task. For some, this might mean highlighting a strong effort or citizenship grade, or praising an academic accomplishment or a perfect attendance record. 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 you child, asking questions to understand how a particular grade was earned:
Was the work too difficult?
Could the pace of the class be too fast or too slow?
Does you child complete all class work or home work and ask questions when issues 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 nightly study time (Sunday through Thursday) when they can not be disturbed? If not, this would be a great time to establish one! If so, is it long enough? 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 or studying on a nightly basis, or are the assignments being turned in late, or not at all? Once you have determined the problem, you can begin to create a solution.
Meet with your child’s teachers Keep an open line of communication with your child’s teacher and the school. Learn about the teaching style, rules, or ways you can help your child. The more you learn and communicate, the greater the chances of your child's success. If you think a grade is unfair, call the teacher or counsellor and act as your child's advocate. Explore other resources offered by the school such as tutors, homework centers, classes outside the normal school day or online subject support. The link between school and home is vital. Report cards are an accrual of your child’s academic performance through an entire semester. If you’re staying engaged with your child’s education, there should be no surprises when report cards are issued. Perhaps your child should be tested for learning, behavioural, or other problems.
Establish a study plan with your child. Your child needs to develop regular study habits and to spend an adequate amount of time every day on doing homework and studying for tests. Be aware of your child’s assignments, and observe whether your student is using time effectively to tackle homework and study. Kids also need some downtime to recharge before tackling homework. Build homework into a daily routine that includes a protein snack for fuel, some physical play, a half hour of tube time, chatting with friends, or a daily chore like feeding the dog.
Discuss. Don't lecture! Kids tune out lectures. Instead, ask this question: "What do you think happened, and does this reflect the work you put into it?" Your child will likely point you to the problem and the solution. Does the teacher talk too fast? A recorder could help. Is homework incomplete? A structured routine is vital.
Think proficiency, not perfection. Some kids are C students; yet excel at music, art, or athletics. Nurture their gifts but discuss expectations. Rather than striving for straight A's, expect that your child be proficient in academic and social-emotional learning for their grade level. This includes lifelong learning skills, such as team membership, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication.