making the grade

5 Things to Do When Your Kid Isn’t Making the Grade

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When I entered my junior year of high school, I had a lot of optimism. Almost immediately, all of it disappeared. I played soccer, which motivated me to succeed in other areas of my life. During a game early in the season, I broke my foot, requiring two months in a cast and one month on crutches. Each day was taxing physically but more so emotionally. Day after day, my grades went down and I increasingly fell behind in my school work. My parents and teachers were concerned. Teachers had a number of conversations with me about my performance. I felt alone and desperate. I even cheated on an exam, something I had harshly judged others for doing before. Failure was in and all around me.

If you have a child who is failing, I know at least a little of how he or she feels. Are report card days filled with anxiety and arguing? Are you consistently concerned about the direction your child is headed? Here 5 things to do when your kid isn’t making the grade.

1. Concentrate on the basics.

Both success and failure are contagious. When you’re in the failure pit, getting out feels like an insurmountable feat. It is easy for kids to want to quit. Their confidence is most likely shot. It’s their mindset that needs the most help. Remind them of past successes. When basketball teams are down by 20 points, good coaches will tell the team to cut the other team’s lead down to 10 points. That’s how comebacks begin. Start by trying to create smaller and easier goals to achieve. Build small successes into momentum.

2. Research and analyze.

Let your kids know you are coming alongside them to help. Ask your son or daughter a lot of questions. Most kids will probably resist because the last thing they want to talk about is their failing. Who does? But it is necessary in order to figure out the fullest picture possible. Talk to their teachers, guidance counselors, and specialists, and research learning styles. You may even discover that they need to be tested for a certain learning disability.

3. Create a structured schedule.

It can be overwhelming to know where to start, particularly for kids. A structure will give them much needed stability. It will help maximize their time and keep them consistently active toward accomplishing goals. Plan out study time, homework time, and free times. Tailor the schedule and activities to your discoveries in the research and analysis period.

4. Have rewards and consequences.

This can be done a number of ways. The easiest way to do it is to pay them bonuses similar to the bonuses people get when they hit sales goals—the higher the grade, the higher the paycheck. You could also have them pay you when they get a low grade. Another way to do it is pay them for the faithfulness in their activity. There is a lot of debate about reward systems in education. It teaches our kids how the world works in terms of being paid for production while also motivating them. Opponents say it kills creativity and a genuine love of learning. Perhaps that’s true; however, continuing to fail will not endear your kids to learning either. I would use it as a temporary way to get them moving in the right direction. Maybe just use it for the subjects they have a hard time with. Schedule activities that promote creativity so they still get that.

5. Try tutors and/or homeschooling.

Your kids may need some focused attention. If your lives allow it, you may consider homeschooling. You can start the day covering the subjects your kids excel in and enjoy the most. You’ll get an idea of their passions, so you can teach to those interests and spark their love of learning. If that is not an option (or a desire), hire tutors. Every time I met with tutors, I did significantly better. You may have tried all of these things. But, for the sake of your child, don’t give up. Go back to drawing board and keep trying new things. All of the investment will be worth it.

Sound off: What other things can you do when your child isn’t making the grade?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How can I help you with your schoolwork?”