Report card day – and what parents do with their kids’ grades. I remember my school days and those report cards.
The sky was dimming its light as the sun slid closer to the horizon. My mama and I sat at the dining room table together. This was not meal time. Report card time – yet I felt no fear or angst. It was report card time. Mama went over each subject and the grade I got in each one.
This was back in the days when we received an “H”, an “S,” or a “U”. As a child, I never did figure out what the H represented. Today I know it meant “Honors”. Basically, it was the highest grade a person could get. An “S” signaled “satisfactory.” And the “U”? Unsatisfactory.
Sometimes there was an H- or an S+. You get the picture. Everybody, but everybody wanted an H, or at least an S.
We didn’t talk about our grades at school with other classmates, and we didn’t talk about our grades at home. There were six of us, and I can’t tell you what grades my siblings received. I have an idea, because we all did well in school – some much better than others. I don’t recall any of us receiving a “U”, but then my mama would never have reported that to the rest of us.
Nor did she brag to other parents or to our siblings about the accomplishments of her children. This was one of the best gifts my mother could have given her six girls. Even though in some ways we were all alike, we were also very different. Mama knew that; she remembered that and she lived it in the way she treated us and our grades.
What Mama did about her children’s grades
There was one time I had a minus next to an S. I was still doing okay, but this showed a cause for concern. Pointing to the offending S-, Mama quietly said, “Do you think you can work on this before next time?”
I assured her I would work on it! I did. The next report card, that minus sign was no longer there.
Mama didn’t say, “Why can’t you make a better grade in conduct like Alice?” or “You know your older sister’s grades are higher than this. Why can’t you be like them?”
No comparison, no threatening, no punishment; just encouragement to do better and pleasure in the many H’s marching down the column on the right.
The difference in kids’ grades
We know that no two kids are alike. We understand that personalities, quirks, and smarts are different. Yet, sometimes we act as if they should all be alike. After all, if Johnny makes all As, there’s no reason Billy can’t because they’re brothers, right? Wrong.
One of the worst things we can do as parents with kids in school is compare their grades and their behavior with another sibling or any other child. It’s true that not every child is as committed to learning; no two children care equally about making good grades.
What we should expect with our kids is that they apply themselves and do the best they can, not the best that some other child might do. We should expect them to hone in on the areas in which they are deficient and encourage them to do better because they can, not because another child excels where they do not.
Your final grade in dealing with your kids’ grades
Do not compare your kids – or their grades. Instead, encourage each child to develop his best based on his own potential and not that of one of his siblings or cousins. Give praise for character qualities instead of just grades. When your other children hear you commend a child for good character as evidenced by behavior, it will give them incentive to try harder. This is how you make the grade as a parent.