How to Improve Your Child's Bad Grades

Mother helping daughter with homework

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Every parent wants their child to be successful at school and to thrive academically. Sometimes children come home with bad grades and report cards that don’t reveal a child’s true capacity for learning.

If your child is struggling with bad grades, there’s a lot you can do to help. For one, be understanding about any challenges your child might be facing, such as social issues or even issues at home. Next, work closely with them and their teachers to find out what they're struggling with, so you can get them extra help. Below are a few suggestions that you may find useful.

Find Out What’s Going On

Poor grades that seem to come out of nowhere are a common sign that a child or teen is emotionally struggling. Maybe they're being bullied or rejected at school. Or maybe they're going through some other issue, such as puberty. All of these things (and more) can be stressing out your child so much that they're too distracted to focus on their schoolwork.

Take the time to sit down with them and ask how they're feeling and what you can do to help them with whatever they are going through. They may not open up to you right away, so be patient and continue to show them that you're there for them. The more supported your child feels, the more likely they'll be to come to you when they're ready.

You may find that once the stressful situation has been dealt with, your child’s grades improve.

Review Homework Together

The best way to know if your child is struggling is to review their homework from time to time. By doing so, you might be able to identify a problem before it becomes serious. Bring this up with your child and discuss it with their teacher if necessary.

Review their mistakes. Are they having trouble with a particular class, or overall? Or are they struggling with specific types of questions (for example, multiple choice vs. open-ended)? Pinpointing their strengths and weaknesses is the first step to fixing the problem.

You can also take the opportunity to coach your child and answer any questions they might have.

Talk to Their Teachers

If your child isn’t doing well at school, you need to contact their teachers. Ask for a parent/teacher conference, either by phone or in person. Go over their homework, tests, and quizzes, and ask for specific advice and suggestions on what you might do to help your child.

If you think a teacher isn’t supporting your child at school or helping to answer their questions (or yours), it may be worth your while to contact the school guidance counselor.

Keep track of any conversations you have with your child’s teacher, including emails, in order to give the counselor a complete picture of your child’s problem.

Set Reasonable Goals

Take the time to sit down with your child, review their current grades, and set realistic goals. Discuss where their grades should be by the end of the semester or quarter. For instance, rather than aiming to be a straight-A student, aim to improve your child's grade from a C to a B.

Break down this larger goal into more manageable mini-milestones. Each time your child achieves a goal (no matter how small it is), have a little celebration. It will help build their confidence and make the big goal seem more achievable.

Be sure you and your child review the goals periodically.

Make Studying Fun

Let’s face it, most kids don’t love homework. But helping your child attend to their studies is important. Try to make homework enjoyable by providing snacks while they're studying, encouraging them, or even keeping them company while they push through their assignments.

Consider doing something together when their homework is completed, such as taking a walk or making dinner together. Giving them something to look forward to can help them focus on their studies in order to complete them.

Consider making flashcards with your child to help them prepare for quizzes or tests. Use colorful pens, simple drawings, or magazine clippings to make flashcards unique.

Hire a Tutor

If your child needs additional help understanding a subject, consider hiring a tutor. A tutor can give your child the extra attention they need. They can teach organizational skills, including how to organize their notebooks and highlight their notes. They can also share effective study techniques, such as how to use stories and acronyms to memorize details.

To find a tutor, contact your child’s school for recommendations, or ask other parents for the names of tutors they’ve used. Sometimes teachers also offer after-school assistance for students who are struggling. While some tutors work for free, others charge an hourly or monthly rate.

Focus on the Positive

Try not to place too much pressure on your child to succeed. Getting a bad grade is stressful enough. Criticizing their poor performance only leads to more stress, which can cause them to do even worse in school.

Praise them for their hard work in those subjects. Let your child know that you have faith in their abilities. If you think they are trying their best, praise them for their efforts. Offer positive encouragement and let them know that you’re there to help them every step of the way.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Effects of bullying.

  2. Supekar K, Iuculano T, Chen L, Menon V. Remediation of childhood math anxiety and associated neural circuits through cognitive tutoring. J Neurosci. 2015;35(36):12574-83. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0786-15.2015

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.