SchoolFamily.com's guest blogger this week is Neil McNerney, M.Ed., LPC , author of Homework—A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!
You know the look. It’s the look your kid gives when he comes home from school and you ask him for the report card. Before you even look at it, you have a pretty good idea of the grades. Excuses might follow, or possibly blaming the teacher.
For many of us, dealing with report cards causes lots of stress. If the news is not good, especially if there is a drop in the grades, it tends to be a pretty rough night.
As a family counselor, I view this as a leadership opportunity. Leading our kids during successful times is pretty easy. Leading them when things are rough takes much more thought.
Here are 5 things you can do to handle the report card situation to increase achievement and decrease frustration:
1. Avoid the “D” word. Telling our kids that we are disappointed is sometimes effective, but with grades, it tends to de-motivate. Instead, ask #2:
2. Ask “How do you feel about these grades?” Asking how she feels refocuses the issue on her instead of you. Take your time with this question. Her answer might be “I don’t know.” Stay silent for a while. Even if she isn’t answering, she is still thinking about it. But be careful of #3:
3. Don’t take the bait. Some kids will answer with things like: “I don’t care,” or “A ‘C’ is average. What’s the big deal?” or “You expect me to be perfect!” Ignore these statements. Your kid is trying to get you to react and change the subject.
4. Ask “What’s your plan?” Ask him what he plans on doing about this. If the answer is “I don’t know,” then say, “One of us will be making a plan. I think your plan might be better than mine.”
5. Don’t punish right away. In fact, consider not punishing. Most punishments we give at the spur of the moment tend to be too severe and don’t work very well. And punishment often decreases motivation instead of increasing it.
Rewards work much better than punishments when it comes to schoolwork, and most parenting experts agree that rewards are the better choice to increase a good behavior.
But parents often tell me it doesn’t seem right to reward minimal expectations, and I agree. Sometimes it’s all about how we phrase something.
“No video games until homework is done,” sounds more like a punishment and will be de-motivating. Consider a small change: “You can play video games after you have shown me your completed work.” This turns it into a reward.
Think about those things that your kid already gets without any work. Now think about making them earn those things instead of just getting them.
Neil McNerney, M.Ed., LPC is a licensed counselor, university faculty member, speaker, and parenting expert, and travels internationally training parents and professionals. He is author of Homework—A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!, available at www.reducehomeworkstress.com. For more information, visit www.neilmcnerney.com.