If your children's recent report cards reflected problems, it's time to make their grade improvement a family project. Serious involvement by parents (both if there are two available) can communicate to your children the importance of school achievement.

Be disappointed in their performance rather than angry at them. Punishments will probably only get them angry at you. Your disappointment may bring on their tears, but don't let those tears dissuade you from taking the problem seriously. If they tell you they can handle it alone, and this is the first time they've had problems, you can let them try to manage improvement and only offer help. If you've heard these words before, explain to them that this time you must be involved to be sure they understand what a priority their education is to the whole family. As you talk to them about the problems, envision yourself as a coach rather than a judge. You're about to coach them for success in school because the whole family needs to be a winning team. Avoid comments like "Grades don't count as long as you're learning" or "I didn't get very good grades either; you'll grow out of it." Instead, emphasize that together you can identify what problems they are having, and help them toward success.

  1. Discuss each subject with your children. Let them explain to you why they think they received a particular grade and what they think they should do to improve a grade if it needs improvement. Listen carefully to their perception of what the problem is so you can help them clarify any false interpre-tations, and be sure not to side with them against their teachers. If you do believe it's mainly a teach-er problem, you'll want to try to fix it, but it's im-portant for your children not to learn to manipulate you against their teachers. Teachers require parent support in order to successfully teach your children.

  2. Contact the teacher for a conference. If your conferences with your children leave you puzzled about performance, or if you have further questions, teachers may be able to clarify grades or comments. They may also explain approaches to helping your children study better in particular subjects. Take notes on what the teacher tells you so you can review them at home and can thoroughly understand how to help your children.

  3. Help your children understand the extent of effort that's needed to earnMother and child good grades. Children often believe they're working hard when they aren't. Give them some examples of how to study a subject from your own experience or from what you learned from their teachers. Teach them to test themselves after they have studied to see what they remember. Be sure you don't sit with them the entire time they're working, or they will become dependent on you, but do review with them after they’re done to be sure they're doing quality work. Explain that doing their best truly means putting their whole self into their work.

  4. Set up a plan for homework and study involvement. That may mean communication between home and school, or even consequences. It's important for your children to learn to be accountable, to get all their work in, and to not get in the habit of making excuses. Consequences, for example earning points for regular homework completion, help to motivate children to persevere. Postponing social plans on the weekend until all work is complete and caught up makes sense. Too much grounding and punishment tends to become counterproductive. Kids give up and sometimes even get depressed if you overuse punishments.

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  6. Get interested in your children’s learning. Help them to extend and enrich their learning; for example, if they’re studying about the Renaissance, consider taking them to an art museum or concert to learn about art or music of that period. Encourage family science or social studies projects that teach how to go beyond what’s expected. Hands-on activities help children get involved and remember what they’ve learned. Teachers notice kids who submit special projects.

  7. Consider a school or private psychologist if you require further explanation. If you do decide to get help, be sure the psychologist includes you in the help process. If there is a sudden deterioration of schoolwork, seek help immediately. This may be an indication of serious problems.

©2010 by Sylvia B. Rimm. All rights reserved. This publication, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.