Tips for Parents: Dealing with a Bad Grade

Health Writer

How do you react when your child brings home a bad grade? As parents we want our children to succeed, to do well in school. We often measure their success in terms of a letter or number grade because it is sometimes the only measurement available. If you and your child's teacher have been regularly communicating, the bad grade, whether on an assignment, a test or the report card, might be expected and you might have already addressed the problem and worked out a solution. But sometimes we are shocked. We know our child has been doing the homework, we know he has been studying for tests, we know the project has been completed. Why then, is the grade on the report card so bad?

Before you start yelling, screaming, grounding him until the end of the school year (all of these approaches are not productive when you have a child with ADHD), read over the following tips:

Stop yourself from responding immediately. Your first reaction is to become angry. Stop, wait, calm down, talk with your spouse or with a friend. When you respond out of anger, you make the situation about your emotions rather than about your child. Take the time to calm down so you can listen, understand and find a solution.

Listen to your child. Rather than starting off with a lecture (he probably already knows the lecture by heart), start by asking him why he thinks he got a bad grade.

Look for the underlying reason for the poor grade. You, and your child, might jump to conclusions on why he got the bad grade. Was he not handing in homework, not performing well on tests? These can be surface reasons. In order to solve the problem, you need to find out why he isn't handing in homework or why he is failing the tests. There may be a personality conflict with the teacher, he could find the subject matter difficult or he could have absolutely no interest in the subject, he could know the work but have test anxiety, he could be forgetting homework. Narrowing down the real reason for the bad grade can help you find ways to help him improve.

Talk to the teacher. Teachers do want your child to succeed. They want to see every child succeed. Your child's teacher is no exception. Ask what she thinks the problem is. She might agree with your child's assessment or may have additional information on what is going on in the classroom. If your child's reasons and the teacher's reasons are completely different, you might consider sitting down with both to see if you can get a better idea of what is going on.

Ask the teacher to communicate. If you have an IEP or Section 504 which includes communication, the teacher should be following up with you on a regular basis. If not, ask the teacher for weekly (or daily) updates on how your child is doing in school. Has he handed in homework all week? Are there any tests or projects coming up? The more information you have, the less you will be surprised next time.

Come up with ideas. Once you have gathered information, you need to work on a solution to the problem. If your child is having a difficult time understanding the work, it might be time to hire a tutor. If your child isn't handing in homework, create a reward and consequence system. If your child freezes when it comes time to take a test, work on relaxation exercises.

Make a plan. Now that you have identified the problem and come up with some ideas, it is time to create a plan to set the in action. How are you going to help your child? What does the teacher need to do? What does your child need to do? Create a plan so everyone knows what is expected of him or her over the next couple of months.

Create rewards and consequences. What is going to happen if the bad grades continue? What reward will your child receive if he improves his grade? Set up a rewards and consequences chart to let your child know exactly what to expect and to provide motivation for improving his school performance.

Stay tuned, next week we will talk about how to help your children improve their grades once they begin to slip.