Punishing a Bad Report Card?
By Lisa Belkin
Report-card time. That has always been a fairly good day at Alyssa’s house in Houston. This time around, though, things aren’t going so well, and Alyssa’s mother is looking for some advice. Here’s the comment she left yesterday on an unrelated post:
My daughter is 12 and in seventh grade. I just found out from her school that they distributed report cards last week and she did not give hers to me. She hid it in a drawer in her room because she didn’t want to be grounded for her low grade of 76 in science. She’s a really good student and kid for the most part. She has started the teenager back-talk stuff, but she’s over all a really good kid. I have no idea what I should do about her hiding her report card. Should I punish her? Ground her for hiding it? We have an 85 percent rule in the house: her grades need to be 85 percent or above or she is grounded to the house until the next progress report.
Advice on what I should do?
Poll of the readership: How do you handle bad report cards at your house? What do you consider “bad”? Does punishment work? Is the problem here really the report card? Or the hiding? What should Alyssa’s Mom do?
Take a minute to answer the questions in the readership poll. What would you have done?
I would like to share my thoughts on this topic. The 85% rule does not resonate with me. I believe it is setting the relationship between the parents and their child to fail. As parents, we want the relationship with our children to be open and trustful. A rule of this kind instills fear in the child as it has a consequence of dread, so the child is more prone to lying with to meet an inflexible demanding rule. Surely a parent has to address the lying issue. Even though the parents pushed their child to lie, this behaviour is unacceptable.
It is interesting to see how this parent motivates her child by using negative reinforcement, in this case the threat of being grounded. This kind of negative motivation is an external one and is not effective given it is fear based. As parents we want our children to be internally motivated. We do that by stressing our values and by discussing future plans with our kids.
Further to my thoughts to setting the stage for internal and positive motivation, I offer suggestions on dealing with a bad report card:
- Show acceptance and unconditional love – don’t be judgmental; it is not serving you and it surely not serving your child. When you are judgmental and don’t approve of your child’s behaviour, she sees it as a disapproval of her self, in other words she experiences it as if you don’t love and accept her.
- Ask your child to share her feelings and thoughts about the report card. Children tend to criticize themselves more harshly then parents do. Your job is to counter all the negative thoughts that your child generates about herself in order to prevent her from forming negative and self-limiting beliefs.
- Explain to your child what the aim is of report cards; as they are merely feedback of various elements including: effort, consistency, academic and social skills. All of these are areas that can be improved and changed; they reflect behaviours, habits and skills rather than describe WHO you are.
- The process of supporting your child in receiving the report card paves a way for more discussion. Here is a perfect opportunity to set realistic, achievable goals for next term. Ask your child what might be some of the ways for her to improve in those challenging areas and check her level of commitment.
The whole conversation needs to be done when you are both calm and ready to have an open and effective discussion. It is important to acknowledge that the motivation to become more successful academically and socially at school needs to come from the child. Your job as a parent is to explore which barriers decrease her motivation and brainstorm together some of the ways for her to have success.
Imposing your academic expectations on your child is a recipe for stress, dishonesty and rebellion from her part. Discussing shared values and supporting your child in realizing these important values is a recipe for an open relationship and success in school.