What Parents Should Do with their Teen’s School Progress Reports

When schools send report cards or progress reports home, students generally have one of two reactions: proudly handing over their grades for their parents’ “ooohs” and “aaahs” or fearfully hoping their parents completely forget it’s report card day.

Parents should view these reports as a critical piece of information about their child’s academic progress. Whether pleased or disappointed by it, parents should use the report as a point of discussion with their teen and, if necessary, his/her teacher. It is not a time to begin yelling, loading on guilt or laying out the “punishment of the year.” Failure is a scary thing for anybody. If your student doesn’t do as well as expected, it’s time to talk openly about it and begin working out solutions. Remind your teen (and yourself!) that bad grades do not mean he/she is a failure. There could be many reasons for his/her performance that have nothing at all to do with ability or intelligence, and it’s your joint duty to find out the root of the problem.

Here are some tips for what parents should do when they receive a less than stellar school report from their teen:

Get your teen’s perspective.
Parents need to have an open dialogue with their children. Before reports come home, you should be asking your teen about homework, upcoming tests, projects, grades, etc.  Being aware of assignments and their test scores will allow you to help your teen stay on task.  When your teen encounters an academic problem, talk to them to determine the root of the problem. There are likely different issues at work depending on whether your teen’s grades have dropped in one subject versus all of his/her subjects. If they are receiving poor grades in one subject, they simply may be having trouble with the concepts in that class, and a tutor may be an excellent solution. Or, your teen may hate that class and has been skipping it. It is vital to find out the true cause of the problem. If your child’s grades dropped in every subject, consider other factors such as anxiety, social pressure, bullying, drug use, laziness, or other distractions.

Discuss your child’s performance with his teacher.
When you are concerned about a bad progress report, parent should schedule a meeting with their teen’s teacher. Progress reports do not provide a lot of detail, but your teen’s teacher has a lot more information they can share. The teacher is the best source for information about your child’s scholastic performance, what difficulties your child is experiencing, what weaknesses may be holding your teen back, and possible recommendations for ways to help your teen. The teacher may invite your teen to see them during “extra hours” for one-on-one help, ask you to consider tutoring, or be open to your feedback, such as moving them to a seat in the front of the class, if you believe your child is easily distracted. They can also pinpoint the specific area that could be causing the problem, such as not understanding a key concept in math that the rest of the work hinges on.

Set goals for improvement with your teen.
Setting goals is the best way to move your teen forward, but goal-setting is not an inherent skill, so you need to show your teen how to go through this process. Talk about the upcoming school tests, projects, homework and other work in detail and then break those assignments down into smaller goals with deadlines. Help your teen set small, attainable goals with specific measures. Teach them to maintain a positive attitude by encouraging them to enjoy the little progress along the way and celebrating each goal achieved. Perhaps even more important will be your ability to teach your teen to maneuver the obstacles they encounter. It is hard to stick to a plan, especially when you hit some roadblocks. Goals are not set in stone, but rather are like a roadmap used to get to a particular destination, and the route can vary depending on the many factors involved in planning the trip.

Establish good study habits in your teen.
The way your child studies at home, and the effort they put into their homework, can have just as much impact on their grades as what they are doing in school. Read our previous blog on Good Study Habits to learn the best ways to ensure your child creates habits at home that will improve their academic career from elementary school all the way through college.

Seek outside help.
Some children may need additional attention that can’t be provided in school. Hiring a tutor can offer them one-on-one assistance at their individual level in any subject.

Praise what your teen is doing well.
Regardless of your thoughts on your teen’s progress report, be sure to find something to admire. Whether it’s a specific subject (they may have flunked math, but they’re acing Spanish!) or an extracurricular activity, your teen has talents and efforts that need to be acknowledged. Remind your teen that your love is not conditional on his/her grades and that you want to help them succeed by tackling the problem together. Finally, try to draw connections between your teen’s interests and the troubled school subject.  For example, if your child is not doing well in English, but loves to read the latest Twilight book, show him/her the link between the two. Consider developing a rewards or incentives system to encourage your teen.

Final Thoughts…

Parents should not be waiting for a report card to know how their child is performing at school. Find out what mechanisms your school has in place for keeping you informed of your child’s progress, such as an online parent portal system for parents to check grades or contact from the teacher if grades fall below a certain level.

You need to look at a progress report or a report card as an opportunity to help your teen be successful. The report is a tool for identifying problems, finding solutions, and setting goals. Working together with your teen on this issue may very well be one of the most significant life lessons your child receives from you before they hit the adult world.

One comment

  • Once again, a great post. When I see progress reports or report cards, there’s only one word that come to mind. “Opportunity”! These are opportunities to encourage and speak greatness into your teens. in addition, this will allow you to build a better relationship and improve communication with your teen. Win-Win situation.

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