Question: I'm not very happy that my daughter was in a clique in middle school. The clique seems to dominate everything that she does and is not always a good influence. How should I handle this? -- No Clique Lover
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Report cards offer in-depth assessments of students' cumulative performance in each subject, insights into how well they're doing socially, and tips on how and where they can improve. Whether good or bad, discussing your child's report card isn't always easy to do. To keep your youngster's confidence high and to inspire continued motivation, following are a few tips for handling these all-important conversations.
Start In an Open and Relaxed Setting
Consider how it feels to have your own performance reviewed at work. Professional performance reviews often cause a considerable amount of stress despite being entirely confidential. Now, imagine having a finished performance review published and then shared with your loved ones. For most people, even the mere prospect of having these evaluations made public is nerve-wracking.
To make things a bit easier on your child, start in a completely relaxed setting. This might be an excellent time to check out fun movies like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid (watch on Hulu + Live TV) or How to Eat Fried Worms. Movies, hobbies or any relaxing activity can set the stage for your child to both open up and be more receptive to any insights that you have to share.
Many parents make the unfortunate mistake of comparing their children to siblings, cousins, or other high-performing students in their lives. It's important to remember that each child has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each child should only be encouraged to do the very best that they're personally capable of.
Rather than comparing your child's level of success to that of someone else, start by listing the ways in which they've succeeded. Congratulate them on the high marks that they've earned, on the positive comments that individual teachers have recorded, and on the gains that they've made in consistently challenging subjects. Then, ask your child if there are any areas of their performance that might need improvement. This opens the door to discussing grades that are less than stellar, and it empowers kids to assume responsibility for their own accomplishments and shortcomings.
Ask Your Kids for Insights and Encourage Accountability
Young children have a tendency to blame their shortcomings on everything but themselves. Accountability is a learned behavior, and many people don't master it well into their later years. You can make sure this isn't the case for your child by asking them to point out grades that they're unhappy with and having them tell you how they may have been responsible for their lower-than-acceptable marks. Common reasons include:
- Failing to ask for help
- Not turning in assignments on time
- Poor participation in in-class activities
- Disruptive behavior
You should also ask your child if there are challenges that they're experiencing in classes that aren't necessarily their fault. Helping kids recognize problems with poor testing skills or poor study skills on their own often makes them more receptive to offers of assistance.
As you talk, make a list of solutions for all of the possible problems that you've identified together. Children who struggle with lack of focus, poor study skills, and difficulty in completing homework can eliminate outside distractions while working, or limit the use of mobile phones, gaming systems, and laptops or tablets throughout the school week. Kids who have a hard time digesting complex materials can work with tutors or join study groups, and those with behavioral challenges can work with counselors. Let your child be an equal participant in the decision-making and problem-solving process to further empower them and to further encourage accountability.
Stress the Importance of Balance
Keep in mind that even excessively good report cards can be cause for concern at times. Be sure to ask high-performing students if they're getting enough sleep, enough time with their friends, and enough time for themselves. Talk about the importance of mental health, and encourage the use of proactive strategies for stress management. Anxiety, depression, and other overwhelming emotions become increasingly common during the teen years when motivated and especially ambitious students work hard to appeal to top colleges.
No matter how you hold these conversations, always finish by letting your youngsters know that you're proud of their efforts. Reaffirming your confidence in your children's abilities will help them feel confident in themselves.
By Education Writers at HotDog.com