Why You Should Not Panic If Your Child Struggles At School
How to help your child succeed in school?
As a parent, you want to see your children get good grades at school. They can lead to better college prospects and open up lots of career pathways.
However, not every child finds classroom learning easy or effective. There will always be a percentage of children who struggle to get straight As or even Bs throughout their school lives.
This can be a massive source of anxiety for both students and parents. It can make both parties feel like failures or think that they have done something wrong.
Although high academic achievement does correlate with career success, other factors play at least as large a role.
Therefore, with the right guidance and encouragement, your child can actually benefit from not thriving in an academic environment.
Here’s how to help your child succeed in school.
The experience of finding schoolwork difficult can make your child gritty.
Let’s face it:
Getting worse marks than your peers and not knowing the answer when you are called in class can wear away a teenager’s (often already fragile) confidence. As a parent, it’s not always easy to find the right words to pick your kid up after a poor set of marks.
But remember, everyone goes through challenging periods in their lives. Your child is just experiencing this earlier than others.
Their difficulties are opportunities to foster grit and resilience. These are traits that are ultimately far more valuable to personal and professional success than academic achievement.
Teenagers are unlikely to understand this. Unless you are lucky enough to have a child with natural resilience (yes, this does happen), it’s your job as a parent to foster a gritty approach in your child.
There are many ways to do this. They include:
- Praising effort above performance. You want to instill the value of work, repetitive practice, and gradual improvement being worthy of respect in itself regardless of outcome.
- Setting smaller goals, such as gradually raising grades from a D to a C, or getting better at a specific aspect of a subject, and praising the hitting of these smaller goals.
- To take up a new skill yourself that takes patience. This can show your child that it’s acceptable, even inevitable, to not be good at something and that you can improve with practice.
Teenage years are some of the best times to cultivate grit. The right attitude struggling with schoolwork can be one of the most positive early influencers in your child’s life.
Poorer grades can narrow down career options—and this can be a good thing.
As parents, we often want our children to have every possibility open to them. More options mean more freedom to do what we want, right?
For people with clear ambitions, this may be true. For a lot of us, however, the plethora of career paths available is overwhelming. It can lead to analysis paralysis in our 20s.
Will not getting straight As mean that certain career paths are more difficult? Probably yes.
Does that mean that your child will have a less lucrative or fulfilling career? Certainly not.
A smaller amount of career options means that your child can be more focused with whatever path he wants to follow. Focus is at least as important as academic achievement when it comes to career success.
Again, fostering this focus and passion towards a certain career path requires your input.
If your teen has any hobbies or interests, introduce them to people who have turned this into a career.
Encourage your child to showcase their interests online, be it through social media or a website that they start themselves.
This can have the triple effect of giving your child a head start in their career, teaching them what it takes to market their talent, and restoring a potential loss in confidence from having poor grades.
Getting used to negative feedback is an invaluable life skill.
Top performers at school can go right up to the age of 18 without ever receiving criticism and negative feedback.
Is this really good preparation for the outside world?
What happens when they start working for a manager who only uses negative feedback as a way of “motivating” their employees?
All too often they wilt. It’s no fault of their own. They simply haven’t gotten used to these bruises to their ego.
Setbacks at school can help prepare a young person for such situations.
Of course, constant criticism is unhealthy, but negative feedback combined with practical advice and encouragement on how to do better in the future will build the character of a young person far better than constant praise.
Distinguishing between a lack of application or aptitude
Your child will only reap the benefits of not being top of the class if they are actually trying to do well at school. Disengagement from lessons or plain old laziness is something that needs to be addressed.
Figuring out whether your teen’s poor grades are due to a lack of application or a genuine difficulty in getting to grips with their work isn’t always easy.
The only effective way to do this is to work with your child. Offer to help them on their homework and you will be able to see the effort they are putting in and their willingness to work through challenges.
If the application is there and improvement (however slow) is happening, then the actual grades that your child achieves should be seen as secondary to the work that they put in.
See Also: 5 Lessons Every Millennial Needs to Learn About Success
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Author: Fiona Arnold
Fiona Arnold is a career coach and a mother of two. She is the director of RedCrest Careers who offer career guidance to teenagers and their parents.