I have three sons in elementary school and I like to consider myself pretty invested in their school life. I help out at the school often and keep communication with their teachers so imagine my surprise when my 6th grader got a bad report card and received all C’s.
Now my son is smart and I’m not just saying that from an “I’m his Mom standpoint.” My son is the kind of kid who seems to know how to take and put things back together again. If I am not sure how to do something, he’ll come up to me and say “Let me try.” While his grades have varied over the years I was still stunned to find out that he was getting all C’s. I had spoken to his teacher a few weeks before and everything seemed to be fine. However things can change with your child in a snap so it’s your job to try to figure out how you can help your child succeed in school. In some ways I had started taking my oldest son for granted. With one other child who has ADHD and another with PDD-NOS, my oldest was always my most “normal” child so I never thought that he would have his own set of problems in school.
To get over this bump in our lives, there were a few things I had to consider that I want to share with you. This article will give you a few pointers on some things you should consider when helping your child who may be having a hard time in school.
#1: Don’t Overreact
It’s easy to overreact when you find out your child has gotten a bad report card. Maybe you’re the kind who gets angry or perhaps you are prone to tears feeling that you’ve failed your child somehow. Overreacting in front of your child is not going to make matters better. It’s OK to show concern but falling apart either in anger or tears should be a big no no. When I found out about my son I was upset but I kept it all together and talked to him in a concerned tone. This helped him not get worked up and allowed me to set a plain in motion.
#2: Get to the Root of the Problem
Your child is failing for a reason. It could be that they simply don’t understand the work being done in class. Perhaps they are having other problems such as being bullied at school or are even having problems at home. If you try to figure out what the problem is, you have a better chance at solving it. My son was taking longer then his classmates to do his work, lost papers in class and was prone to giggling with other classmates. I’ve been working on him with concentration and the teacher has placed him in front of his desk so that my son remembers to behave.
#3: Ask the Teacher Their Opinion
One of the most important things to do is to keep contact with the teacher. When I found out my son was getting low grades, his teacher point blank told me “We’re going to have to become better friends.” I took that to mean that if we communicated more often then we could both work together to see some improvement in my son.
My son’s teacher’s opinion was that I keep working with my son. I asked if he thought it would be helpful if I came into the classroom during school times and he said yes so now I pop into my son’s class unexpectedly to see how he is working. Being that he is a 6th grader, it isn’t always great to see Mom pop into class so it gives him a little more motivation to work harder.
Not every teacher will work with you but you may be surprised to find out how many will. My son’s teacher was completely willing to work with me and I could tell that he truly did not want my child to fail.
#4: Keep on Top of Your Child
It’s easy to let things slide with your kids when they’re busy or to take them for granted. At the beginning of the school year I was very diligent in always checking my son’s homework, having him give me the papers from his backpack etc. As time went on however and things got busier, I’ll admit it. I slid in my duties. I didn’t always remember to check his backpack and while I asked if his homework was done, I didn’t always ask to see it. His grades were a wake up reminder for not just him but me as well. My son needs me to always be diligent in my duty as his parent and now I’m back to reviewing his home daily.
#5: Buy Extra Workbooks
Extra work never hurts anyone. When I found out about my son’s report card, I researched workbooks for his grade level and bought one online. He can do some extra pages during the week as well as a couple of the weekends. You don’t want to overburden your child with tons of extra work but a few during the week is ok. Plus…you may find that you understanding his work better allows you to help him more thoroughly.
#6: Take Things Away
If your child’s grades don’t improve, take away something he likes or enjoys doing. For example, is his hand always glued to a game controller or to a computer mouse when he is home? Take away his game system and his computer (except to do school work on) and tell your child that if you see improvement with their grades in two weeks or so that they can earn some of their time back on the things that they enjoy doing. I told my son that he was going to lose out on his coveted weekend Playstation time (my kids aren’t allowed to play during the school week) and that helped him want to work harder. Also I had started giving him a couple of nights of TV time to relax during the school week and that was taken away indefinitely as well. Instead I told my son he was going to read every night and write a little about what he’s read. So far this has worked like a charm.
#7: Offer Incentives
There are some that think offering incentives is bad but it’s not. Everyone gets incentives at some point. Maybe you’re working at a job and you know that your job review is coming up so you work harder. Getting a good review is incentive for you to work harder. When my son’s grades slipped I offered him different incentives. If his grades improved in two weeks, I offered him the chance of his favorite chips in his lunch for five days straight, something he normally wouldn’t get that often. The next incentive was a special movie night with just Mom (no little brothers tagging along) if his grades picked up on his next report card.
There are all kinds of incentives to offer your child. They can be monetary but also try for something special like special time with a parent or grandparent, the chance to pick out a new book or a trip to one of their favorite places.
One of the things that I discovered is that my son just needed more one on one time with me. While it wasn’t an incentive I told him about, one night in bed he laid with me for a while I got his younger child asleep. It was something he really enjoyed and that was incentive for me to spend more alone time with the kids. It can be hard to do when you have more then one child but they will treasure it if you do.
#8: Hire a Tutor
If your child is truly having learning problems and you are just not able to help them, consider hiring a tutor. There are businesses that run specifically in that business but there are also college goers who are willing to be a tutor to someone in Elementary, Junior High or High School. Perhaps you even know a family member or friend who excels in a subject your child is having trouble with that would be willing to help for free or for a low fee.
Read more from Shannon Wilson:
Having a Child with PDD-NOS
How to Raise Money on Back to School Night
Sign Language Aids for Kids