Parenting Your Teenager: 6 Tips for Dealing with Bad Report Cards

One of the basic issues we need to understand is that parents and teens view school very differently. This is important because often we believe that our kids look at school the same way we do.

In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

For parents, we work and want to do well in our jobs. So we think because our kids don't work full time or at all, then school is their full-time job, and they should want to excel.

For teens, as well as many younger kids, school is their social world interrupted by six to seven classes a day.

This different view is the cause for many dinner-table squabbles.

Every now and then, as parents describe the problems with grades, they will say, "We got a D in that class."

I've thought of many responses to that statement, most of which I don't share. What I do say is, "Excuse me, who is this we? Do you go to class or does your child?"

The point is that at some time - the earlier the better - school must become more important to your child than it is to you.

Having laid out these two basic principles, let's look at some solutions for handling a less than exciting report card.

1) You'll want to meet with the teacher of a class in which your child has done poorly. You should ask the teacher: What he thinks might be in the way of your child doing well in this subject; does she think your child has the tools to do well in this class; how are other kids of equal ability doing in this class; what does he recommend your child (notice, not we) do to improve in this class?

2) Learn how to read a report card. There is much more information there than just grades. There's also conduct and attendance to check out. Look for patterns. If your kid got a good grade and great conduct in one class and poor grades and bad conduct in another, take a look at what the differences are between those two classes. Obviously, the child has the ability in one class. What's in the way in the other?

3) Often kids will blame the teacher. "She doesn't like me!" This is an opportunity to teach real-world living in which not all people, bosses included, are going to like you. At the same time, you still need to know how to do well in a situation, even when there are people who don't like you.

4) Here's a little trick of the trade: Determine which class comes right before your child's lunch period. If grades, attendance and conduct are significantly different after lunch than before, the next question is what's happening at lunch that is getting in the way?

5) Make two copies of your child's report card _ one for you and one for your child. Draw a horizontal line to the right of each letter grade. Next to the end of that line, write the next letter grade up. For example, if the grade is an F, write a D. If it's a D, write a C, and so on. These one-step-up grades are the goals for the next grading period.

This may sound like settling for less, but it really is not. It gives your child a manageable goal to reach. Over a couple of grading periods, this strategy can move low grades to high grades. If they go higher than the goal, then that's a good thing. If they go lower than the goal, it's time for some consequences.

6) It's been my experience that grounding a kid for the entire grading period is in most cases counterproductive. For adults, nine weeks is not that long. For kids, however, it's forever, and you get rapidly diminishing returns.

Instead, start with strong consequences, and then as effort, behavior and grades improve, let the rope out a little at a time, just enough for them to grow themselves.

It's also useful to link grades to something that is important to them. As one father said to me last year, "In our family, Ds don't drive."

For more leading edge tips and tools for back to school success, you are invited to visit parenting coach Jeff Herring's BacktoSchoolSuccess.com

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