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Talking Over Your Child’s Report Card

It’s here. The dreaded first home delivery of the report card. Whether you’re pulling it out of a backpack or pulling it up on a computer screen, there’s a moment of anticipation and maybe even dread. Indeed parents seem obligated to use the report card moment as a pep talk. But experts aren’t sure this is the right way to go.

Maria Pickard, guidance counselor in Memphis, Tennessee, warns parents against saying too much. “Students come to rely too heavily on their parents’ reaction to their scores. When what we really want is to have them reacting themselves. If parents could just use that moment to get their kids thinking for themselves about how they did, report cards would be a more effective tool for motivating kids to perform better.”

The most basic advice for parents is to ask open-ended questions instead of yes-or-no ones. Think of the report card as a conversation-starter. A way for your child to talk about how she’s doing in each area, what is easy or hard for her, and how you can help her to do better.

Here are more tips for talking about report cards with your child:

  • Ask your child how she thinks she did. This opens up the dialogue for any problems she’s having in the class or reasons for a less than stellar performance. And it sets the tone for parents to listen.
  • If the teacher is commenting on your child’s chattiness or inability to listen, don’t set yourself up for an argument. Instead of asking why he’s chatty or why she can’t sit still, ask, “Why do you think the teacher feels you have trouble listening?” Getting your child to explain from the teacher’s point of view enables him to think about how his actions are being interpreted.

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