Healthy Kids YMCA Child Care

4 ways to handle a disappointing report card

A child seated at a table is writing on a piece of paper. Assorted coloured pencils are scattered on the table.

The last week of school is always a time of excitement, but when I was a kid, those blissful days leading up to summer vacation were marred by one thing: report cards.

Despite being a “good student,” I constantly stressed over grades, and so did my peers. This pressure to achieve top scores that we felt as elementary students still exists today, and research shows that young kids are more stressed by academics than issues like bullying, divorce, or even death.

In a few days, your child is going to walk through the front door with their report card, and it may not live up to your expectations. What are you going to do? Your gut reaction might be to yell or punish, but that isn’t necessarily the best way to handle the situation as it can cause kids to feel even more anxious about grades.

Dealing with less-than-stellar year-end marks is challenging, but there are ways to make the report card conversation more productive and less stressful:

1. Read the entire report card 

When you open a report card, your eyes tend to dart straight to the letter grades, but final reports are about more than that. Make sure to inspect the learning skills and teacher comments sections, too. Both areas provide crucial information that will paint a fuller picture of your child’s overall academic performance this year and contextualize their marks.

2. Don’t forget to talk about the good 

Amidst any Cs and Ds on a report card is something to praise. You may have to search for it, but be sure to find the good and let your kid know they’ve done something well. Remember to start with the positive and then gently move into discussing the areas for improvement.

3. Be all ears 

Report cards only tell one part of the story of a school year, and your child knows the other side. Asking them to explain why they received the marks they did may result in a lot of excuses that pass the buck onto someone else, but there is also a chance that you may gather insights that lead you to discover unknown difficulties that your child had in school. Perhaps they were unable to see the board or were too shy to ask for help. If you don’t ask them, you’ll never know what really happened over the school year.

4. Create SMART goals for next year

Want to see an improvement in your child’s grades? Rather than creating the goal of “I will do better at math next year,” you and your child should work to form SMART goals. This sort of goal setting establishes specific, realistic, and effective objectives for future academic success.  

How are disappointing grades handled in your home? Is there too much emphasis on letter grades and not enough on the value of education? Let us know by sharing your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.