6 October 2009 10:02 AM

Avoiding Surprises at Report Card Time

by Dr. Rick

I know, it’s just the beginning of the school year, and there are several weeks yet until the first report cards are distributed.  So, why worry?  But I’d argue that now is precisely the time to start letting your child know that you’re interested in those grades.  And that you’re going to be involved in ways he’s not seen up to now.


New year, new habits.


You’ve read it here many times and you’ve heard me say it in media interviews.  Despite protestations to the contrary, report cards are almost never a surprise to students.  They shouldn’t be a surprise to parents, either.  Kids are amazingly perceptive about what their grades are going to be.  Who knows better, after all, whether assignments are complete and turned in, tests are studied for, and notes taken in class?


Here are some friendly tips to avoid report card surprises.

  1. Commit.  Let your child know that you’ve set some new academic goals this year, too.  Just as he has.  And one of your most important goals is to be informed about his progress toward meeting his goals.  Yes, his goals are your goals.  The two of you are joined at the academic hip.  He’s going to have to get used to it.

  2. Set goals together.  Decide what goals you want to work toward together.  Agree on appropriate rewards for meeting and consequences for not meeting those goals.  If you come up with all of this together, everyone buys into the plan.  Plus, you’ll all learn negotiating skills and the importance of give-and-take.

  3. Ask questions.  Nightly.  Questions about the school day, assignments, progress toward special deadlines.  Any subject giving difficulty?  How’s the pace of instruction?  Getting assignments done and turned in?  Going to class?  Taking good notes?  Ask to see the notes from today, the first draft of the book report, the progress toward the social studies term paper.  You’ll get some eye-rolling at first, but eventually he’ll recognize that you’re serious about his success.

  4. Communicate.  Just as you’re communicating with your student every day, communicate occasionally with the school, with teachers, with guidance counselors, and with administrators if necessary.  Go to PTA meetings periodically, serve on the odd committee, chaperone a field trip from time to time, just to stay in touch with the school, other parents, and school activities.

  5. Ask more questions.  Your child isn’t “working up to his potential”?  Find out why.  Play detective.  You may know what his potential is, but teachers can judge only by the work he’s turned in.  All teachers can tell you of students who are oh-so-talented, according to their parents, but who have yet to turn in a single assignment.  Check out the friends, too.  Some “friends” aren’t worthy of the name.

  6. Behavior at school.  Is bad behavior getting in the way of success?  Is he bossy?  Does he listen to instructions?  Does he understand school rules?  Does he respect others?  Is he goofing off in class?

  7. What about your behavior?  Sometimes it’s difficult being the adult, but it has to be done.  Do you monitor TV, study, homework, computer and video-game time?  Are you a good role model when it comes to your own obligations?  Are you reliable, just as you want him to be?

  8. Routines.  Are you providing the routines necessary for success in school – specific times for study, homework, recreation, meals, sleeping, church, sports?  You’ve read my words and heard me say repeatedly – routines are necessary to provide structure, organization, and security to students.  Adults, too, by the way.

  9. Talk about responsibility.  Especially for older students – middle and high schoolers – it’s important for them to know that the independence they so desperately say they want will come only when they show the responsibility necessary for handling that independence.  Extra curfew time, for example, or a few extra spending bucks will come when those goals are met.

  10. Stay positive.  Another one of my favorite themes.  You’ll be tempted to retreat at times, when the tasks of goal-setting, monitoring, organizing, communicating, and friendly nagging all seem to get too much.  Give yourselves some down-time, some less serious experiences, some fun between just the two of you, without siblings.  Share interests and laughs.  These special times are equally special in your child’s growth and relationship with you.  Make the most of them.

Check out the other blogs I’ve written about success in school – setting goals, how to have a successful school year, taking notes, listening in class, avoiding distractions, studying with friends, and taking tests, for example, to name only a few – by clicking on Archive above.



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