Ideally, parenting would be super easy and every child would be driven, focused and would have a deep love for study. In reality, kids are not always like that, there are some unicorns, sure, but it’s not the most usual thing.
And, as parents, our first response when (or “if”) our child comes home with low grades, might be getting mad, punishing them or restricting their social activities. However, a study carried out by the University of Michigan has just proved this sort of approach actually just makes things worse. In this study, researchers asked the parents of 500 children what they would do if their kid got home with low grades. They sorted the parents’ responses into two categories: punitive and proactive.
Guess what the results were! Yep, children whose parents had chosen the punitive way had lower levels of literacy and maths achievements when they finished high school.
Why Don’t Punitive Strategies Work?
Basically, because they don’t address the real issue, the reason why the kid is actually underperforming. For example, limiting a kid’s social activities will only help them improve their grades if the reason why their grades went down was their active social life. Besides, this kind of strategies usually lead to frustration and aversion to studying.
So what should you do instead?
1. Find the cause of their low grades
Make an appointment with their teachers to find out what is making them underperform. There can be many reasons: too much talking in class, shyness that prevents them from asking the teacher when they don’t understand something, or actually some kind of struggle when it comes to certain fields.
Spotting the cause is the first step to good grades!
2. Don’t just blame laziness
It’s so usual to just assume our kid is lazy. But let’s go back to our school years, I bet you struggled with at least one subject. Even the most intelligent people struggle with something. But if we find that thing we struggle with and work hard to get better at it, it might end up being what we’re best at.
3. Yes, they’ll have to work harder
If the cause of your kid’s low grades is that they struggle with one or some subjects, you can ask their teacher for some extra materials, or get them a private tutor. High school kids are usually a great, since they will understand your kid’s perspective while helping them improve their grades.
4. Ask them how they feel
Kids have feelings too, and pride. So low marks affect them big time too. If they feel they have your support, it will be a lot easier for them to get back on track. Instead of just punishing them or restricting their social activities right away, ask them why they think their marks are lower than in previous terms, and how they think they can improve them.
Look back and think of a time when you struggled with a subject and treat your child how you would have liked to be treated back them.
5. Don’t clearly check on them all the time
It’s normal that you want to check if they are studying and doing their homework all the time, but this will most definitely stress them out big time. Imagine if your boss were continuously checking on you, you’d totally quit. This is quite related to our post about why kids also need some privacy.
If you see your kid is underperforming, ask them how things are going in class (even if you already know), not in an inquisitive tone, but just casually, let them answer without pressure. If they lie to you, that’s a different story, they probably are afraid to tell you the truth, make them feel like they have your support.
We know it’s always hard to deal with low grades, but the situation is reversible. And, as always, if you dealt with this in the past, we’d love it if you told us what worked and what didn’t on the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter!