How to Deal With a Bad Report Card

7 Steps to Handling a Child's Poor Grades

Germany, Leipzig, Parents watching school report of girl
Westend61 / Getty Images

When your child brings home a bad report card, your first instinct might be to yell and punish. However, it really isn't the end of the world. Knowing how to deal with poor grades can take some finesse. It may also require you to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Let's explore a few good tactics you can use in this situation.

Understand the Grading System

Read the key indicating how the grading system works before reacting. Each school may have a different way of grading and it may be different than what you're used to. That's why it's important to fully understand how your child's school handles it.

For example, your child may receive a letter grade tied to a numerical point system. Or, they might receive letters indicating progress (such as "I" for "Improving" or "G" for "Grade Level"). Then again, it might be a standards-based report card.

What looks like a bad grade to you may actually not be as bad as it seems.

Know How the Grades Are Weighted

When your child enters a new classroom, ask how the grades are weighted. Some teachers give more emphasis to tests than homework, for example. If your child has exceptional grades on his homework but has a hard time taking tests, his grades may reflect this and not his true understanding of the subject.

Praise the Positive

Somewhere on that report card, there is something to be proud of. That may only be a good attendance record, but it's something. Make sure your child knows you're looking at everything and not just the negatives.

Talk About Poor Grades

It is important to talk to your child about the poor grades so you can get to the root cause. At the same time, it's equally important that you don't lose your temper.

There's nothing wrong with letting your child know he hasn't met your expectations. He probably already knows that. However, if you're unable to talk about what those expectations are and why he thinks he hasn't met them in a calm manner, he's more likely to be humiliated and ashamed than motivated to work harder.

Listen to Your Child

During your discussions about the report card, be sure to take the time to listen to what your child has to say. It may be that he has a million excuses why his grades are low, none of which are valid or lay the responsibility at his feet. However, he may have some insights, too.

Maybe he's distracted or embarrassed to ask for help. Maybe he can't see the board or is tired because he's participating in too many extracurricular activities. You won't know until you ask.

Create a Game Plan

Come up with a game plan so the next report card won't be so bad. This means setting realistic goals for the next quarter and helping your child brainstorm ways to meet these goals.

Realistic goals: A child who has all C's and D's on his report card cannot realistically be expected to have all A's next time around. Yet, it's probably not too much to ask to see those grades increase to B's and C's.

Provide Support

Your job isn't done until you've helped your child access the supports he needs to improve his report card. If you have to contact the teacher, don't put it off. If you need to help him outline his time, sit down and do it. Your child is counting on you to help him out, and this is not the same as bailing him out.

A Word From Verywell

For every poor performance at school, there is likely something that can be done to improve the situation. Take the time to run through these steps and be sure to follow up with your child on the goals and support systems you establish. This can not only improve their grades but help them feel pride in their schoolwork and do a lot to building good self-esteem.