The kids are back in school and it won’t be long before they start getting report cards. One of the most common questions I’m asked by parents and educators is how to respond to bad grades. The first thing to remember is that the child’s report card is the child’s…not ours.
While it’s easy to get down on ourselves when kids perform poorly, it’s very important to our mental health and theirs to remember the following:
We can’t learn for kids.
As educators and parents we can up the odds of high achievement by modeling responsibility, establishing a safe and calm environment, providing excellent individualized instruction and demonstrating excitement for learning.
We can’t control every action they take or decision they make.
Secondly, it’s comforting to remember that some of the world’s most successful people have struggled with grades. Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Jim Fay and Dr. Foster Cline are some notable examples. What’s most important is that our children develop good character, curiosity and problem-solving skills.
Many highly successful people struggled with “grades” as children.
Thirdly, if we can consistently demonstrate empathy rather than anger or frustration, the odds of them overcoming their difficulties dramatically increase. Is empathy really that powerful? Yes indeed! In fact, a growing body of research is demonstrating that warmth (i.e., empathy) is strongly correlated with higher achievement and better behavior. (If you like reading research, study: Rivers, Mullis, Fortner & Mullis, 2012 and Silt, Hughes, Wu & Kwock, 2012.
So…let’s remember to respond with sincere love and concern:
“Oh man. I bet these grades are really disappointing for you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. The good news is that this doesn’t change the way I feel about you.”
Note: Rather than fighting with kids about their grades, consider reading Fay’s book, From Bad Grades to a Great Life! If it doesn’t completely change your life, he’ll buy it back!