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Parents' Custom Report Card Kit

This article offers a guide for parents struggling with how to react to their child's negative report card.

Parents' Custom Report Card Kit

How Will You React?
Whether it's As, Ds, or grades in between -- what's the best way to react to your child's report card? Read on to find your situation and a custom list of tips, along with ideas to help your child improve.

My Child Works Very Hard, But Her Grades are Low.
Tips for Talking with Your Child
If you work with your child every night and she's still not getting the material, be gentle with her. If your child isn't catching on, she's probably feeling bad and really needs your support.

  • Ask your child how she thinks she did.

  • As you read the card, watch that your body language and words don't show disappointment.

    If you know your child has been trying really hard, let her know that you appreciate that: "You really worked hard and this report card doesn't say that. Maybe we should go in and talk with your teacher about how we can help you."

    Next Steps
    When homework is a struggle and grades don't begin to show the time and effort your child puts in, then it't time for a conference with the teacher.

  • Ask the teacher whether assignments can be modified and how much homework time is expected for your child't grade level.

  • Set up a procedure with the teacher to let her know that your child is spending much longer than the allotted time on homework.

  • Meet with the teacher and the school counselor to get the most complete picture of your child's performance at school. If it turns out that ability is the issue, ask about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504, and IDEA, which helps ensure that children get the services they need.

    My Child is not Working up to His Ability.
    Tips for Talking with Your Child
    If your child's report card doesn't jibe with his ability, you may need to do a bit of detective work to figure out why. A lack of motivation can come from frustration at not being able to do schoolwork. Rather than admit they can't do it, some children will just give up or pretend not to care. Lack of motivation can also be an indicator of other problems.

  • Ask your child what's going on out on the playground, in class, and at lunch.

  • Ask him if the work seems too hard, but be on guard -- you may not get an honest answer.

    You're the expert on your child. Through caring questions, you can find the underlying reasons for unsatisfactory grades.

    Next Steps
    Ask the teacher for help. She may be able to work a behavior modification system into your child's school program. Individual contracts can often motivate a child to do better, too.

    If your child's lack of motivation is coming from other underlying issues, a small group counseling experience at school, or a few meetings with the school counselor, may point your child in the right direction.

    My Child's Social Skills "Need Improvement."
    Tips for Talking with Your Child
    Social skills need to be taught and practiced at home and at school. Here's how to get started:

  • Ask your child for examples of where she thinks she's having trouble. If the report card says, "Needs improvement in getting along with others," you could ask, "Why do you think your teacher would say you need improvement here?"

  • If your child stares back at you blankly, set up a conference with the teacher and include your child.

  • If your child can name a time when things didn't go so well, use that example to help her think of ways to make it better. Taking time to replay the situation gives your child the opportunity to do it right.

    Next Steps

  • Talk to your child's teacher to find out specifics.

  • Ask for examples of situations where your child is having difficulty. Is it around sharing? Being bossy? Not listening? Blaming others?

  • Ask the teacher if he has any suggestions about what you could do to reinforce some school rules at home.

  • Talk to the school counselor about social-skills groups. If the school doesn't offer a group at your child's grade level, the counselor can refer you one outside the school.

    My Child Got poor Marks for "Work and Study Habits."
    Tips for Talking with Your Child
    Work and study habits include getting homework done, coming to class prepared, using time well, and caring for materials and equipment. Kids at the elementary level need a lot of help from their parents in these areas.

  • Ask your child what would help him finish his assignments on time.

  • Ask your child if the work is too difficult for him.

  • Ask him if he's doing too many things after school. Overscheduling a child with after-school activities can challenge his ability to complete things.

    Next Steps

  • Based on your child's answers, monitor his workspace and time.

  • Set up a specific place and time to do homework and provide all the materials in one place to minimize disruptions.

  • If your child doesn't understand the homework, give a quick call or write a note to the teacher.

  • Find out from the teacher how long the assignment should take and, if your child takes longer, what you can do. Some teachers will modify assignments and others will tell you that, after a certain amount of time, the child needs to stop.

  • Get a neat assignment book for your child. Set up a system where the teacher checks the book to make sure assignments are written down correctly.

  • Ask the teacher to assign a homework partner so your child has someone to call if she forgets what to do.

    My Child is Struggling in One Area.
    Tips for Talking with Your Child
    How many times have we heard the story of the child who brings home five As and one B only to have the parent ask, "How come you got the B?" It is so important to first praise and encourage fine work. Some subjects are particularly challenging for children, and they have to work hard to get a passing grade. Celebrating hard work is critically important to your child's self-esteem.

    Next Steps
    If reading is a problem, then seeking help is very important: Reading problems don't go away without extra attention to specific skills.

  • Call the teacher and ask whether she's available for extra help in the morning or after school.

  • Ask if there are enrichment programs, like computer tutorial labs, offered in the evening for remediation.

  • Find out if there are tutors in the school or referrals to ones outside.

    With praise, encouragement, and help learning the skills they're weak on, kids will soon master those troublesome subject areas.

    My Child was Graded Too Harshly.
    Tips for Talking with Your Child
    If you think your child deserved better grades, reassure her that you thought she'd do better too. Then tell her that you'll call the teacher to find out how you can help her to bring up her grades next time.

  • Don't share your feelings about the teacher with your child. Talking in a negative way about the teacher and how unfair she is could set up a conflict between child and teacher that will be hard to reverse.

  • Ask your child what she thinks of her grades. See if you can get her to tell you how she feels about how well she did.

    Next Steps

  • Call the teacher and ask for a conference. Let him know that you're concerned about the grades and that they were a surprise.

  • Ask if he could pull work samples from your child's class and homework that would help you to see where he's having trouble.

  • Ask the teacher what's missing and what needs to be included to gain a higher mark.

  • Share what you learn with your child. If she's old enough, ask her to sit in on the conference, but only if you can be sure that the conference will be constructive. The goal is to help your child feel that the teacher is on her side.

    If you think the grades and the work still don't match up, you do have recourse to speak with the principal. But it's always best to try to work things out with the teacher.

    My Child Received all "A's."
    Tips for Talking with Your Child
    A lot can be learned from a consistently strong report card, and your reactions are still important.

  • Talk about what your child is doing that's working!

  • Ask him what his favorite subject is and build on it. Cultivating interests helps in the lifelong process of career awareness for children.

  • Ask him to teach you something he has learned.

  • Compliment your child and let him know that you're there to help if needed.

    Next Steps

  • If your child's work is significantly above grade level, investigate enrichment programs in and out of school.

  • Help your child find Internet sites that could expand on his interests.

  • Ask the teacher about leadership opportunities that your child could participate in.

    Brought to you by The American School Counselor Association

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