The day is fast approaching where your child’s annual report card will be handed over to you. Whether your child is a high achiever, or barely just passing, your heart will be anxious. I know, I’ve been there. It’s more difficult when you know your child has been struggling, the feelings of dread and sadly, even shame, take hold of your heart and don’t seem to let go. Once received, as you skim over the depressing grades, and as your face depicts the utter debilitating disappointment, what you don’t know is that your child is carefully watching and analyzing. He has been picking up on your thoughts from the moment he handed you the circular about this very day. Just like you, he feels uneasy each time the word ‘report’ comes up. Even a child who is brilliant will feel utter suspense till he knows for sure he has scored straight A’s- mostly not for himself, but for the sake of his parents. Is this really the way we want to go about propagating education and its outcomes? As a teacher who has been going through the rigorous process of assessments, evaluations, grading etc. to prepare the very document in question, I have come to some very strong opinions- you could easily take them or leave them:
1. The Grades in the Report do NOT define your Child: I have made countless reports, but at the end of the day when I think about the pupil, I see so much more than a few grades. He may have scored a D in Math, but I see a child who is compassionate and shares his chocolate evenly with his friend, he may have scored a C in Social Studies but still picks up a wrapper lying in the corridor, he may have scored and F in English, but still uses all the polite words in the English language at the appropriate moments. He may have even been detained, but I see a child who has leadership qualities and is a great team player. Don’t forget all the countless positive qualities in that moment.
2. You Simply can not Love your Child Conditionally: When you show your disappointment and criticize him, you are sending him the message that he is unworthy of your love unless he lives up to your expectations. You simply can not do this, even if you know your child had slacked off all year and could have done much better. It doesn’t matter that your intentions are pure, your child will feel small and unloved and unworthy.
3. Your Disappointment has a Greater Impact than Failing: Much in line with the above point, your sadness will depress your child. Automatically his philosophy of the purpose of education will be distorted from trying to learn new things (and be productive members of society) to just simply making good grades on paper. Even excessive happiness can have this effect. The idea is strike the right amount of emotion.
4. Showing Appreciation and Pride in Front of the Teacher: It breaks your child’s heart when you frown at his report, especially in front of his teacher. Kids don’t say much, but I have watched the expression in their eyes. When the parent smiles and gives a little tap on his shoulder to show pride, the child’s eyes just light up and the smile is one of pure joy. On the other hand, even the tiniest bit of a frown can break your child’s heart who is looking at you in great earnest. The worst thing you can do is instinctively look at him and ask him why his report is so bad, or why he didn’t do better at so and so. Instead, fight this instinct, put on a smile and talk positively to the teacher about how proud you are for his efforts. Watch your child light up.
5. Each kid is Unique with Unique Talents: When I write a comment on the report, I try to keep academics out of it, the grades tell you that anyway, unless there is some serious issue. More likely, I try to picture the child stripped out from the cover of these grades. I can see the child’s true potential. I can be unbiased about it. If I can, then so can you, though it would be a bigger challenge because of your preconceived image and love. Talk to the teacher and discuss this with her. You could be pleasantly surprised.
6.Don’t Compare- Please: This is another parental no-no. Don’t call your bestie and ask her how her child has fared- right in your child’s face. Either you will make your friend feel bad about your child’s better performance, or you’ll make your own child feel bad about his under performance. It makes for resentment between relationships and demotivation for your child. Also, don’t compare siblings, ‘Your sister did so well, why can’t you be more like her?’ is the worst thing you can possibly say.
7. Have a Heart to Heart, then Put it Away: So by now you must be thoroughly confused on what to do. So in a nutshell:
- don’t show disappointment in front of the teacher, be encouraging
- if your child has unsatisfactory grades, bring it up a day later when emotions have cooled and discuss ways and strategies (age appropriate) to do better the next year, show your conviction that you believe in him
- if your child has done well, praise him, encourage him, show pride, and the next day discuss how in the coming year you believe he can improve, but also make sure he knows grades are not everything
- then sign it and put it away
Don’t make such a big deal out of it, because I’ll say it again, the report card does not define your child. Grades are important, but so is positive nurturing, self-worth and motivation. Anything good but laced with negativity doesn’t end well. So for all the parents and kids out there, I pray for your success- not only as regards to the report card, but success in all walks of life.