Help! My Child Has Substandard Grades!

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By Dr Wolff von Auer (Clinical Hypnotherapist & Counselor)
Vanessa von Auer (Clinic Director/Psychologist)

Students and often more so, parents are usually anxiously awaiting their school reports towards the end of school terms. These are times when particularly academically-focused parents get extremely anxious about their youngster’s achievements. When children do not bring home the expected grades, parents often think of themselves and their child as underachievers. Those parents that are typically involved in their children’s academia i.e., assisting them with their assignments or projects feel as if they have “failed” themselves if their child obtains an “unacceptable mark” for what they and their child have put so much effort into. All those evenings of studying, tutoring and assembling projects flash by and ultimately lead to disappointment not only in the child but also in the parents. Such high expectations are pressurising to all involved and are unhealthy for the child’s development. Constant pressure such as this (even when parents do not mean to apply it) can result in affecting a child’s self-esteem, confidence and personality in the long run.

Here are some “golden guidelines” to help you and your child cope with your child’s “substandard grades”:

1) For parents: Sit down for a moment and take a deep breath.

2) Reflect on whose needs are more important at that moment in time. Your child! She is the one who needs attention and comfort now.

3) Do not blame your child. Blaming her will make her feel stupid and inadequate about herself.

4) Remember that in hindsight no one is truly interested in this year’s school report. There is always another year to strive for accomplishments. It is highly unlikely that you, the parent, still remember what grades you had obtained when you were your child’s age? So why stress the small stuff?

5) Comfort your child and explain to her how you handled substandard grades at her age and that trying her best can still result in a successful life.

6) Is your child good at sports or music – but substandard in subjects like mathematics and languages? Praise your child for her strengths – because good grades are good grades and therefore should be acknowledged.

7) “Bad” grades do not reflect on a child’s intelligence or future potential.

8) Despite being motivated one can achieve bad grades. Most often children try very hard to achieve in school but parents must understand that sometimes they just need that additional support from them.

9) Grades are not fixed. Your child can improve gradually. Therefore, punishment is not motivating or helpful to your child. Punishing or belittling her intelligence i.e. “Why can other children get better marks than you?” only invoke fear and disappointment in her. Such parental consequences in worst-case scenarios can lead to school refusal and learned helplessness. The child “learns to give up” in situations that she feels she “cannot succeed in anyway”.

10) “Bad” results can have many different reasons. Together with your child explore, why the grades are not satisfactory. There are a variety of reasons for children not reaching their potential. Some could have to do with the teaching style provided by certain teachers (i.e., too strict versus too lenient), some classes just may be too complex to learn on their own, or some form of bullying in certain classes may also distract the child from taking in all of the academic materials, etc.

11) Celebrate the end of the school term with your child, no matter the outcome of the report card. Celebrating your child’s efforts make her feel special, accepted by mum and dad, and motivate her to continue trying her best in school.

12) Remember: Your child is not only a student but also your child! Don’t let a school problem strain your relationship with her.

13) School holidays are holidays! It should not be a time to study again. Give yourself and your child permission to relax from the usual school stress. Let your child wind down and be a “silly, fun kid” again. In addition, the school break is an ideal opportunity for improving and strengthening your relationship with your child.

*Dr Wolff Von Auer, from the Counseling and Hypnotherapy Hub, is a certified Hypnotherapist and Counselor. He is the President of the International Association of Counselors and Therapists in Singapore and a well- known speaker, lecturer and trainer in the field of psychotherapy.

*Vanessa von Auer, from EVA Psychology Centre, is a Clinic Director/Psychologist, who enjoys working with children as well as their parents to ensure a grounded and healthy family environment. She was trained in America and applies an integrated and family-oriented approach in her practice.

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