Report card fail

All Woman

SO you have received your teenager's report card and there's a pattern no parent wants to see — her grades have plummeted, again. And naturally, you, like many other parents, may feel like you too have failed even when you have made significant investments in your child's education.

As daunting as this may be for you both, all is not lost. Guidance counsellor Monique Minto says that teenagers struggling with failing grades is a common problem. And while most parents might be scared and frustrated, especially when they have been doing their best to support their children's development, a dramatic change in your child's educational habits and organisational skills may be the change they need to turn their academic failure into success.

“Navigating life as a high-schooler can be tough. There are many elements at play — some children are unable to handle the pressure, some are being affected by peer pressure, some are just not focused, others could use some more academic support, and some lack guidance. As a parent, the first step to helping your child take charge of his or her academics is first identifying what the challenges are,” Minto told All Woman.

Conduct a reading analysis
A significant part of the learning challenges of many children is when they have comprehension issues. If your child is unable to understand the reading material then this could significantly impact his/her grades. You may need to get your child a reading specialist to assist if comprehension is getting in the way of them understanding reading material.

Help them to develop a timetable
Many times, even with adults, when people fail it is partly because they did plan wisely but failed to follow a schedule that would help them to be more accountable to themselves and stave off poor habits such as procrastination. You should keep a copy of your child's timetable so that you can check on his/her progress.

Provide incentives
Linking good performance to privileges is a motivating force for most people, and for children it is no different. They like the idea of working towards something desirable to them. While most parents usually think that this must be a monetary award, this isn't necessarily true. You can consider other creative rewards such as offering a 'get out of a chore' card, their choice of what should be prepared for dinner on a day of the week, or an extra 30 minutes with their favourite game, for example. At the end of the term you may buy something for your child that they have been asking for.

Set limits and consequences
Threatening your child with punishment is something that many parents do, but certainly, Minto says, this only drives fear in your child, increases his/her chances of failing, and makes it difficult for the child to speak to you about challenges at school. The approach she says you want to take is one where you set expectations and once you have communicated this then you will work with your child on targets that are reasonable. Once you agree on this, the next step is to make clear the restrictions and the consequences to follow if they don't keep their end of the agreement. For example, you can tell them that if their grades don't improve you will be forced to restrict screen time or their use of favourite gadgets.

Coach your child
Your involvement in your child's education is crucial. A good parent, like a sporting coach, is one who not only challenges their child, but also compliments them. It's important to strike a balance. So tell your child they have done a good job, help them to find ways to do better at a particular subject or topic, and be sure to approach your child if you don't see any progress, or if they continue to fall behind. Choose your words carefully — so instead of praising the child, acknowledge that there is improvement, but be sure to make clear that there is room for growth.

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