A Bad Report Card: What Do You Do

Working hard?

A mom finds out her seventh grader’s school passed out report cards last week. She didn’t get her daughter’s report card because her daughter hid it in a drawer.

Why did her daughter hide it?  Because while she typically gets good grades, this time got a poor grade (76) in science class.  Caveat:  The family has a rule.  If a child doesn’t receive an 85 in a particular area, she’s grounded until the next progress report by which time the grade should be up.

Should the mom punish the daughter for the grade? For hiding the report card?  For both?

Those were the questions on Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode blog yesterday, and many people have given their two cents on the matter.  The range of responses are intriguing.  A number of people who grew up getting grounded for bad grades say it didn’t work and they wouldn’t do it. One high school teacher offered several good reasons why punishing bad grades was a bad idea, concluding, “Achieving a particular grade in the end means nothing about what a child may or may not have learned.”

Whether or not you think a bad grade should be punished, many people suggested this mother should find out why her daughter got a lower grade.  Was it the material was harder or she wasn’t working as hard?  Many also separate the why of the grade from the fact of the hiding and some say the hiding of the report card should be punished.  But I’m not so sure you can separate the two.

By hiding her report card — and who doesn’t know that a parent will find out about report cards — this seventh grader was telling her mom both that science was hard and that she couldn’t ask for help–help with homework, with a social situation, with something. In a concrete way, this daughter showed her parents her shame, which, for whatever reason, she couldn’t tell them.  In other words, to me, both the bad grade and the daughter’s decision to “hide” it sound like a cry for at least one conversation if not many more.

For the record, I don’t think a low grade is the end of the world. It can show a child and her parents areas in which the child is struggling for the first time. It can be (extremely) motivating. It can be all kinds of things.  People can be allowed to do not as well in some areas and really relish success in others.  If everything comes easy all the time, then does any achievement feel truly spectacular? But that’s not the point. The point is parents will never understand any of the things relatively poor performance can teach them about their child if a child and a parent can’t talk about it.

Real conversations about what’s happening in school, what’s hard, what a family can do  to figure out how to improve both a grade and the ways to share that grade — these are hard conversation to have. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them first and reserve judgment (and punishment) for later.

What do you think?  Should a child be grounded for a bad grade?  For hiding a report card? What are the homework rules in your house? Are family rules ever made to be broken?

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