Nine weeks have gone by and report card day has arrived. For some kids, it’s a time to celebrate hard-won achievements. For others, not all of the grades on the report card are celebration-worthy. As a parent, what do you do when your child brings home failing grades?

Here are seven useful tips on how to manage a bad report card.

1. Show Compassion

Your child probably feels worse about their grades than you do. While parents tend to feel frustration and anger, children are likely to feel embarrassed, ashamed, and defeated. Rather than lecture your child, start with compassion. It sets the tone for a more relaxed conversation, and perhaps your scholar will open up about struggles they’ve been hiding all along.

2. Show Optimism

Reinforce the idea that “difficult” doesn’t mean “impossible.” With a proper plan in place, grades can improve.

3. Make a Plan for the Next Nine Weeks

Realistic goals

As parents, we would love to see low grades disappear by the next report card, but real change takes time. Rapid change can overwhelm a child. With that in mind, make a plan that aims for incremental success. Initial goals need to be attainable, i.e., increasing a final grade by 10%. Our post, Avoid These Three Grade-Zapping Habits, can help your scholar find immediate ways to boost their grade by 10%.

High-Frequency Practice

Studies show that practicing a new skill frequently for shorter periods of time is more efficient than practicing once or twice for a more extended period of time (1). Review challenging subject matter daily with your child. This goes for tutoring as well. When hiring a tutor, have him or her work with your child as often as possible for at least 45 mins per day. Author Josh Kaufman, best known for his book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!, details in the video below how it is possible to learn virtually anything after 20 hours of purposeful practice. Your child can experience improvement long before the next grading period begins. 

Reward Your Child Along the Way

Motivation can wane over the course of nine weeks. It’s important to keep the fire burning by implementing a reward system that reinforces a grade-saving behavior. This can mean preparing your child’s favorite meal at the end of every successful study session or letting your scholar watch one extra episode of their favorite show when homework is completed by a specific time. Whatever the reward, the idea is to reinforce the positive habit and good grades will follow in time.

4. Get the Right Kind of Help

This is key.  Whether parents work one-on-one with their child or hire a tutor, the right kind of help is crucial. Your child should get help from someone (parent or tutor) who is deeply familiar with the subject matter and can explain concepts in many different ways.  Whoever helps your child should also be available to support a high-frequency review of the subject your scholar is struggling with.

5. Setup/Reinforce Communication Channels with Teachers

Update the contact information you have for your child’s teacher―phone number, and email. Subscribe to all of the channels your child’s teacher uses to send out mass communication; newsletters, smartphone apps, text messaging reminders, etc.

6. Get a Head Start

Teachers typically prepare lesson plans at the start of the school year. Find out what they are going to cover in the upcoming months so that your child can get a head start.

7. Check the School’s Parent Portal for Grades

Children don’t always bring home failed tests. Teachers don’t always contact parents about missing assignments. It is important to check your school’s parent portal for assignment and test grades as they are entered into the system. By frequently checking the parent portal, you’ll discover early on if homework has gone missing, and address poor test performance before a negative trend can set in.

Through it all, remember that although change can be difficult, it isn’t impossible. By sticking to these seven tips, your child will have the tools he or she needs to make a noticeable improvement at school.