Kids don’t enjoy receiving failing grades. It leaves them feeling inadequate and incompetent, frustrated, disappointed and disheartened. It is so much more satisfying to succeed! Fortunately, there are ways that parents can help their kids turn school failure around.
If your child is struggling in school, consider the following tips:
Working Hard/ Working Smart vs. Being Smart
It’s important to help kids understand that failure is the result of many factors, inborn intelligence being only one, often relatively insignificant one! Assuming that a child is placed in an appropriate academic setting (whether that is a special school, a special class, a regular class or a gifted class), he or she ought to be able to achieve a passing grade and possibly even an excellent grade. Children should not be sitting in classrooms that are way beyond their intellectual or academic level. For instance, we don’t put a 6 yr old child into a university level physics class! If your child is in the wrong academic setting, take care of that first. However, let’s assume for now that the child is where he or she belongs. Academic failure under such circumstances is a result of insufficient effort. That insufficient effort might occur because of stressful circumstances such as divorce or death in the family, or poor attitude such wanting to party and socialize instead of studying. Regular study with proper concentration usually leads to passing grades and even good grades.
It’s important that you help keep your child from attributing failure to himself or herself. When kids internalize failure, chances are, they will not try again. On the other hand, attributing failure to a cause that’s external makes the problem workable. After all, someone can fix a bad study habit, but it’s virtually impossible to fix a defunct brain.
Bite Your Tongue
No matter how much your child protests that he or she doesn’t care about the failure, deep inside he or she probably does. The casual attitude is most likely just a front to protect his or her self-esteem. Since a failing child already feels bad; there is no need to make him or her feel worse. There certainly is no need to create punishments – failure is punishment enough. Refrain from saying things like “I work hard to send you to a good school and this is what you give me?” Instead, share what you feel. “I feel disappointed that this is your grade.” It’s okay for parents to feel sad, disappointed, frustrated and upset about the situation; it is NOT O.K. to make hurtful or abusive remarks.
Reiterate Your Support
It’s a difficult time for your child, so offer your support. Ask your child if he or she would like help of some kind – homework tips, study partner, tutor, extra help from the teacher or something else. Do whatever makes sense with the resources of time and money that are available. Your child will see that you consider school success to be a valuable asset. However, apart from offering help (or insisting on it, for younger children), do not emphasize the importance of schoolwork to the point where your child feels annoyed or nauseated! Refrain from lectures and simply offer help.
Figure Out How to Get Better Grades Next Time
Be future-oriented. While it’s alright to ask: “what do you think went wrong?”, you must also ask “how can you change for next time?” Explore possible contributing factors such as low motivation, poor time management skills, mental blocks, emotional stress, fear, overwhelm and other issues. See what adjustments can be made. If possible, provide support in the form of l tutors, educators, therapists or other people. Sometimes a helping hand makes a huge difference in the child’s ability to persevere and succeed.
Find Your Child’s Strengths
Your child may be an underachiever in one area, but he or she may have plenty of strengths in another. Discover what your child is good at. A special interest, aptitude or hidden talent may be what you need to help your more generally motivated. Success in one area often spills over into success in other areas as well. Even if it doesn’t it certainly helps balance the child’s self-esteem as he or she discovers competencies and abilities that spell “success.”
Reinforce Positive Changes
There’s no better way to turn a school failure around than to turn it into a school success, and when that happens, make sure to give positive feedback. Kids, like adults, go from strength to strength. Focusing on small successes along the way helps to ensure big successes further down the line. Reward improvement with praise, treats and privileges (“Wow, all that studying really paid of on your math test. Why don’t we go celebrate with an ice cream cone?”). Similar to a “bonus” for hard work at the office, concrete forms of acknowledgement are powerful motivators for more effort in the future.