By PEP Staff Writer
With the holidays long past and spring a little too far off, the daily grind of school and homework seems interminable. In Montgomery County, the second marking period has just ended and report cards will arrive in homes soon. The timing provides us with an opportunity to think about how we’ve handled report cards in the past and how we might do so a little differently.
Kids are so eager to please their parents. But many of us have high expectations that can send us down rabbit holes where we emphasize the outcomes rather than the effort, and perfection rather than progress.
Keeping in mind that kids are excellent observers but poor interpreters, we’re aware that our tone of voice, nonverbal expressions, and comments speak volumes to kids. It can be a bit of a minefield when a simple comment such as, “Aww, only a B in math this time” (intended to empathize with how they surely must be feeling about the B) may be interpreted as, “I’ll never be good enough” or “The only acceptable grades are A’s.”
One way to avoid the potential minefield is to get curious and ask questions. After thanking your child for sharing their report card with you (it is, after all, their report card), you might ask in an open, friendly manner, “What do you think about your report card?” When they reply, key in on the emotions. Is there anything your child is proud of or finds disappointing, surprising, confusing? A follow-up question might be, “What kind of grades are you willing to work for and would be proud to receive?” Your curiosity not only allows children to consider for themselves how they feel about their work, it also provides you with additional information as you determine what the child needs—encouragement, help with problem-solving, or more information.
Be thoughtful with your words; notice progress, good intentions, and improvement. Most of all, believe that your child also wants to be successful. Underachieving children are often discouraged children—they need our encouragement to motivate themselves. For some of us, the language of encouragement isn’t our native language, so check out this handy resource, The Art of Encouragement. Also, check out our on-demand workshop, “Really Helping Kids With Homework.“