It’s never fun to get that disappointing report card or test grade. For both parents and kids, it can be a stressful setback.
Is it easier to cope and deal with a child who never had outstanding grades or to experience the ups and downs of one who has received awesome marks for most of their academic career only to have them slip or come crashing down?
Without minimizing either experience, today we are looking at the ladder, and how a drop in your teen’s grades can really sting, and be difficult to cope with.
But it’s not the time to give up!
In the absence of time machine technology, the best course of action now is to diagnose the problem correctly and then take action steps towards turning things around. So, before we even get into dealing with a decline in academic performance, let’s take a step back and make sure we are correctly interpreting the situation:
What is a “bad” grade?
Meaning, no person is perfect, so a “slip” from straight As to something like a B+ might be a difficult conversation to have. But it’s not cause for panic! We’re only human, and if this is what you’re noticing, now might be a good time to remind your teen that perfection isn’t a realistic goal. Now’s the time to learn how to improve for next time, not agonize over a little dip in grades.
Have you witnessed this bad grade?
Meaning, have you actually seen an official bad grade or are you just observing your child spending less time on homework or studying, and/or more time out with their friends? If you’re only witnessing a change in behavior, it might be hard to hold your child accountable for any wrongdoings.
That said, now is actually a great time to talk about study habits with your student. By proactively getting back on track, you might be able to avoid that disappointing grade altogether.
Is it one bad grade or a pattern?
As parents, we only want the best for our kids, so it's a natural reaction for us to “pounce” on a bad grade and jump to conclusions when things slip for a minute without letting the scenario play out. We encourage talking with your student: maybe they were stressed, or simply had an “off” day. It’s important not to jump to any conclusions.
Do you already know the answer?
Especially for teens, it might be hard for them to face the music. They might not want to admit why their grades are suffering, even though in the back of their minds, they probably have a good idea of the root cause. In this case, it’s best if that root cause can be extracted.
How to Deal With Bad Grades
Now, if after going through all of that it’s still a valid questions, here are some tips on dealing with your teen’s bad grades:
Chat before accusing
Especially when things aren’t going so well, most people will have a hard time responding positively when they’re feeling like they’re under attack. So, try to chat “around” the subject without attacking it bluntly right out of the gate. That way, you can get the important background information. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll need to get into the nitty gritty eventually, but it’s important to build up to that.
Who knows, you might get some great insights and even a solution. If not, then you can probably dig a little deeper, but if you start in with an accusation, there’s no rewind button.
Try to diagnose the issue with your teen before involving others
Similar to the above, put some trust and faith in your teen’s ability to readily and adequately communicate any issues they might be experiencing, before going “around” them and reaching out to others. The last thing you probably want to do in this situation is give your teen any reason to not trust you or feel like you don’t trust them.
Progress to communicating with the school when necessary
If after chatting with your child you still are feeling like you don’t have much of an answer, now might be a good time to get a second opinion. Say perhaps that you've hit a dead end , it might be time to reach out to your student’s teacher or teachers.
If you sense a greater issue is brewing, and one that transcends the classroom and is more than just “not getting it,” then it might be time to approach school administration as well.
We highly recommend letting your teen know that you’re taking this step. Include them if possible! Not only will this help foster trust, the conversation will be more impactful if your teen is a part of it.
Deal with the root of the problem once discovered
Whew, one of the hardest parts is over, so you should celebrate that. Knowing is half the battle, right? But with that said, work isn’t done until the problem itself is dealt with. Of course, that problem could be any number of things, and is surely beyond being able to be addressed in this single blog post.
That doesn’t mean you need to be in the dark forever. Even pinpointing one or two sources of struggle can make a world of difference. Maybe it’s your teen’s study routine. Maybe it’s regular homework completion. Maybe they need to meet with their teacher once a week for extra help. Collaborate with them to focus on just a few things, and you’ll increase their odds of success.
Offer plenty of encouragement
Facing the music is challenging, whether you’re 14 or 40! So, make sure to positively reinforce your teen for tackling the issue head on. As any parent knows, dealing with bad news is a life skill that goes well beyond school.
Check in regularly, praise both effort and outcomes, and offer to help along the way.
Over time, making seemingly small changes can culminate in a big impact. We encourage parents and teens to use goal setting strategies to make specific, intentional adjustments and track progress. With praise and encouragement, teens will be all the more motivated to succeed.
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