5 tips to help parents handle bad grades

5 tips to help parents handle bad grades

Disappointing a parent is the last thing a child wants to do so bringing home a bad grade can be devastating. It can be made far less painful, however, by how you, as a parent, respond.

“I think either the extreme of flying off the handle or not reacting at all is an unhelpful response,” says Dr. Bobbi Viegas-Miller, clinical psychologist with Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “A middle of the road approach works best. Being responsive, without overreacting.”

Here are five tips from Dr. Viegas-Miller on how parents can best respond when their child receives a bad grade:

1. Remain calm.
Yelling, screaming, and lecturing don’t help,” says Dr. Viegas-Miller.

Getting into a shouting match with your child and overreacting may only create a reluctance to talk with you about this or things in the future. If you feel like the discussion will escalate into an argument, the best approach may be to take a break and walk away until you cool down. Overreacting can also affect your child’s self-esteem. Let your child know that although you don’t like the grade, you still love him or her very much.

Dr. Viegas-Miller warns that parents can go too far in the other direction as well, such as offering excessive rewards when a student makes good grades. A parent may, for example, offer payment of $50 for each “A” received.

External rewards such as money can interfere with your child developing intrinsic motivation for learning,” she says. “You can encourage intrinsic motivations by helping your child to value learning for its own sake. For example, you can help the child find what he or she enjoys and have a passion to learn more about it and explore.”

2. Find out why this may have happened.
“It helps to sit down and talk with your child to get an understanding of what’s going on and determine possible causes for the grade,” Dr. Viegas-Miller says.

Is there something going on at school you need to know about? Is time management an issue? “It could be as simple as needing a tutor or it may possibly be anxiety or depression getting in the way. Talking with them better helps you come up with a plan,” she says.

3. Discuss this with the teacher.
It’s possible there may be larger issues at play that you are unaware of. Set up a time to talk with the teacher to discuss what areas your child needs help in and what some possible solutions might be.

“Develop a partnership with your child’s teacher,” Dr. Viegas-Miller says. “Teachers are the experts since they see what goes on in the classroom. By working collaboratively with your child’s teacher, it is more likely that you will be able to find a solution to your child’s poor grades.”

4.  Offer help, not necessarily punishment.
Grounding a child by not letting him or her participate in school sports or other extra-curricular activities doesn’t necessarily convey the idea of being responsible. Your child may be a C student, which is average and still acceptable. Find ways that will help your child feel successful instead of penalized.

This may come in the form of tutoring help or peer study groups.” Schools have after-school homework clubs and signing up for a club can be motivation to get the work done,” Dr. Viegas-Miller says. “Parents must also check in and make sure their work is done before they’re able to participate in reward activities such as watching TV, playing video games or spending time with friends.”

5.  Plan for future success.
Dr. Viegas-Miller recommends creating a plan for learning and homework at the start of the year. This means having a designated place and time for learning and ensuring that children are rested and well fed before diving into their schoolwork.

Having a consistent routine along with organizational skills can be very beneficial she says. “Using a calendar and organizer to help set the framework for doing homework and learning helps.”

Engaging with them regularly can be helpful too. “It’s important to talk to them about what they’re interested in learning and how this applies to real life. For example, you can help them understand how math applies to balancing a checkbook or research skills can apply to buying a new car,” Dr. Viegas-Miller says.

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  1. My parents overreact a lot. Today I came home and was grounded because I had 2 missing assignments in a class I was acing. Any advice?

  2. I am a parent and I always overreact and I hate it. I wish I didn’t care-it seems like it would be easier. WHy do I get so mad and fly off the handle.

  3. I am in the same boat as Jackie. I always over react, I feel the older my son gets the more he retreats because of this. I want so desperately to not care!

    I watched my son go from a straight a student, to an a/b student, to an occasionally c which to me was not acceptable & now he’s barely surviving his freshman year. He is mostly straight c’s with me constantly on his case. If I wasn’t on his case, he would easily be failing. What do you do when they just don’t care, don’t turn things in & you know their future is at stake at this point. Like I’m terrified if I just let him decide, he’s totally cool with c’s, D’s & f’s & then he’s not going to get into college.

    I was never grounded for grades & was never held to my potential when I watched my friends get grounded for getting one C on a test! They all turned out amazingly successful.

    • Bridget, my son is the exact same way as yours and I am also behaving like you. My son was an A-B student and it fell to the occasional C, now it’s D’s and F’s and he just doesn’t care. We go round and round. He has a job which doesn’t have anything to do with the grade drops, this was happening before. I am not paying for his phone anymore, he can do it since he is doing so poorly in school. We still communicate bit when I discuss grades or school, he shuts down
      I have spoken to the teachers and he hasn’t changed, guess it’s time for natural consequences and no favors from me. I just don’t know what else to do. He is so smart and has such potential, but he has pretty much ruined his chances of going to college, I suppose he will have to start out at a community college then.

    • Stephanie andre April 13, 2022 at 8:11 am · Reply

      PLEASE for the love of god do not put YOUR dreams into your child,sure your friend got grounded for getting a ‘C’ and have gotten successful in the future but not everyone is the same,not everyone has the same temprament. Also,grounding your child for one ‘C’ is punitive im sorry and it shouldnt be something to be admired about.Secondly try evaluating yourself first and then your son,remind him that grades isnt the thing that defines him as a person but do try to push him to his potential,remember this isnt about you its about him

  4. My parents usually over react for a B. They yell at me about how I was terrible, and they were really dissapointed in me. MAKE THEM CHANGE THEIR MINDS!

  5. When I get a bad grade, I can’t tell if my mom is overreacting or if what she’s doing is okay. We usually fight and yell, which this article says not to do, but then she says I have to study for an hour every night for each of the classes I have a b- or below in..she says that “a grade below a b+ is failing.” I feel like she doesn’t understand the situation in my classes, and she doesn’t understand me. I don’t like to talk to her about anything..because she doesn’t understand. She says that when she was in highschool she always had straight a’s, and if she had a c her mom would beat her black and blue (give her a spanking.) She acts as if the apple shouldnt have even fallen off of the tree.

  6. So I have a C history, but I’m too scared to tell my parents that. My parents are extremely strict with my grades, but it’s the first C that I’ve ever gotten. I’m a slow learner, and my history teacher moves really fast with her lessons and she’s a really strict teacher too. I try telling her I have a hard time catching up with her, but she keeps telling me she’s not going to stop stop class because I’m a slow learner. I try telling my parents I have a hard time keeping up with her lessons, but they keep telling me that I make up excuses, or they would yell at me and give me lectures, or in some cases, physically hurt me.

    Most times I have to get help from friends, or have them teach me, but I hate doing that, because it’s not their job. When the teacher assign a project, or hw, I have to stay up late, to complete it, because apparently teachers don’t understand you have a life or other assignments to do. I’m too scared to tell them I have a C or if they find out, they’re are going to flip out. Btw, I’m still in middle school. Help?

    • Hi Anon: as a parent, i recommend you tell your parents the truth and ask them for their help. Tonight I got angry that my daughter recv’d her first C grade. I’m disappointed more in myself as the parent as I feel I have let her down and was not as attentive in catching that she was struggling in English. As a parent, I feel that it was my responsibility in helping her succeed. This is her first time not making the honor roll and she is very sad and upset. Go to your parents and speak to them. Tell them you need some tutoring help. Seek their guidance — ask them for their help to set out a plan that will help you improve your grade next quarter. You shouldn’t feel afraid. I hope it goes well for you.

  7. I have four boys (7,5,10,11). My youngest is in pre-k doing well. A lot isn’t expected from that grade, my 1st grader is a straight A student. My oldest is adjusting to middle school, had a rough beginning but is working toward improving and is putting in the effort. My 5th grader is a whole different story. Since kindergarten he has always struggled academically. However mid year something would click and he would get the ball rolling enough to pass. This year nothing is clicking, and it seems like he just doesn’t care. I’m in close contact with his teacher’s (probably more than they’d like). On top of his homework, on top of his lies. Yesterday was parent teacher conference and I pretty much was told by his teachers that he’s going to fail. They’ve tried everything and so have we here at home and both parties are lost. We’ve grounded him, talked to him, taken away things that are important, rewarded him when he does good and nothing seems to work. Yesterday talking to him seems like he says what we want to hear so he can go to his room. And whatever we say is in one ear out the other. My husband says to let him fail so he can learn, I never failed a grade while in school and I feel like if I let him fail, I failed at my job as a mom. Talking to him he just doesn’t seem like he cares, and he told me “I just don’t want to do it.” HELP!

    • So I’m a student (12 yo) so I may not be qualified to help you. However I think that taking away things your child likes doesn’t benefit them. Showing them you understand does. I was really sad when I recieved my first bad grade and my mom did overact at first but she sat down with me and really tried to understand the situation. Then she helped me and created a plan with me to do better. Instead of lecturing him on why it’s important, try to understand what he’s feeling and that might motivate

    • Stephanie andre April 13, 2022 at 8:02 am · Reply

      Have you asked WHY? he was struggling,in any problems its best to find the problem first rather than jumping to conclusions

  8. I am a junior in high school and just took my midterms for this quarter. I studied hard for my AP courses but neglected my other classes and when our progress came out I was failing two of my classes. This was very unexpected for me as I ended the quarter before with almost all As. Yes I often get distracted on my phone and on social media and I could probably spend my time more wisely. But my parents canceled my birthday celebration and wouldn’t allow me to go to my boyfriends lacrosse game(he goes to a different school so I don’t see him often) this past Friday night. My phone and my car are also being taken away. I am extremely upset with myself but I still have another half of a quarter to raise my grades. Punishments like these create such bad tension in my family and I have no outlet, as I cannot communicate or go anywhere out of school. I need help because this form of punishment only brings me lower.

  9. I’ m in the exactly situation as Erika, only I already know he faild, now i have to tell him tomorrow, I have no idea how im going to tell him and how use the right words. I have to say, Im so dessapointed to myzelf.

    P.s. excuse my english, English is not my first lenguage.

  10. Thank you so very much I hope it helps my child.

  11. My freshman son either has A’s/B’s on tests, quizzes… or F’s from not studying or missing work. While I accept occasional C’s as final grades, he received a C- in one class. I can easily see that he is capable of making at least B- and a solid C in the C- class but I don’t know how to install discipline in him. He wants to go to college but, at this rate, he won’t be able to because of lack of scholarship!


  12. Help!
    I have a 11 yo in middle school. My daughter is failing important classes, she tries, but she gets distracted easily and wonders off in her own mind. She is not strong academically I have Change her schools, because I thought maybe it’s the teacher not doing their job right. I put her in private tutoring which was a fortune, and she is still failing. I get very angry and scream at her, I know that it hurts her emotionally. I’m scared she may have another problem and the teachers aren’t able to figure it out like dislexia or something. Please help!

    • Stephanie andre April 13, 2022 at 8:00 am · Reply

      Maybe just a tip,try evaluating with a psychologist to see if she has a learning disability or not i usually wouldn’t recommend asking from a teacher. If she isn’t great academically its OK everyone has diffrent types of intelligence and try to focus on what she’s good at!,but do still remind her to do well academically not because she has to but explain to her its for a safety plan if things dont go well. Second,try getting a shadow teacher rather than switching schools or private tutoring. And last set reasonable expectations and praise effort,try making your goal a ‘C’ at first at first and then try putting it up to a ‘B’ and if she excels in one subject try challenging her but tell her its okay to not have straight A’s

  13. My child hates himself and is thinking about suicide, What do I do?

    • Anna Kohler

      Hi Ade, we recommend you reach out to the call center at 414-454-6777, option 1 for a virtual assessment and further care recommendations. Or, present to your nearest emergency department for immediate care if you or your child is exhibiting risk for harm of self or others. Thank you.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.