Reviewing report cards

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2020

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By Nathan Rice

“Report cards came out today,” he said. I could tell that this was not a good thing for him. He shared the report card with his dad, and he learned the consequences of that report. The doom of that report card, and the consequences associated with it, seemed to hang over him like a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day.

A dread of report cards is nothing new. It goes back as long as grades have been assigned in school. I remember my neighborhood friends growing up telling me, “Report cards are coming out tomorrow. I probably won’t be outside for a while.”

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Report cards are something that parents should examine. School is important, and monitoring a child’s progress in education is a parent’s responsibility. It is also a parent’s responsibility to correct poor behavior and to discipline when it is needed. A poor report card may reveal that a child has not been taking his schoolwork seriously, ignoring homework, or not paying attention in class. This type of behavior should be corrected.

I appreciate parents who take this role in their children’s lives. I compliment them on their dedication to reviewing their child’s progress and for not shying away from correcting poor behavior.

Sometimes, though, parents miss two important things they should do before punishing children for bad grades. Missing these two important things crushes the effectiveness of the punishment they deliver.

The first thing parents sometimes miss when examining the report card is to examine their child. Children have different levels of abilities. One child’s best effort may result in a ‘C’ while another child’s best effort may yield an ‘A.’

Children are not all equal. Intelligence levels vary, and they mature at different times. Likewise, some children may be intelligent but struggle in a classroom setting. Others may know the information but struggle with the type of test that is given.

I know children give various excuses for bad grades. “It’s the teacher’s fault,” “I know it, but I didn’t understand the test,” and “I just don’t understand,” are often excuses for their lack of effort. Other times, however, they may be true. Parents must examine their children to know if they have done their best or if they are making excuses.

This ties into the second thing parents must do before handing out discipline for bad grades. Parents must be actively involved in their children’s education. Children should take on the responsibility of completing all their work and studying hard, but it’s up to the parents to train, guide and direct them in doing so.

Parents must work with their children, keep them on track with their assignments, help them with homework and guide them in their study habits. I know this is a lot of work. It takes time, and assisting with homework, checking assignments and communicating with teachers may be the last thing parents feel like doing after a long day of work. However, if grades are important enough to punish children over, they are important enough to help children do their best.

Being involved also allows you to judge the best effort of your child better. This can help you know if a ‘C’ is acceptable or if an ‘A’ is what should be seen on the day a report card is released.

Discipline for bad grades is nothing new, and there are many times it is appropriate. Children need to know there are consequences for poor behavior. Before handing out discipline, however, it is important to know the child’s ability and to ensure you have done all you can to help. If these steps are missed, the discipline that is meant to help can end up being extremely detrimental.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at