7 Tips for Dealing with a Bad Report Card

Feb 26, 2021 | Newmarket

Report cards can trigger a wide range of emptions for kids and their parents – happiness, joy, relief, disappointment, anger, frustration, tension, fear, anxiety, etc.

When a child brings home a bad report card, it’s overwhelming for everyone.

If it is handled in a negative, non-constructive way, it only makes things worse for everyone, especially your child who is already feeling pretty low from the bad grades, and also from disappointing you.

One of the most important things to remember is that a bad report card is not the end of the world, nor are bad grades a sign that your child is a failure in school, or in life. 

Report cards are an opportunity to check in how school is going, and how your child’s learning is progressing throughout the school year.  Report cards are a means to learn and grow both at school and in life overall. For parents and kids, changing to this type of ‘report card mindset’ is a really important step in dealing with report cards in general.

A bad report card is an opportunity for you to help your child figure out:

  • What work or study habits need to change.
  • Where extra learning support is needed, perhaps through a tutor.
  • A plan to get them back on track, and feeling confident in school, especially in math if that’s where their struggling.

Here are 7 tips for Dealing with a Bad Report Card:

1. Stay Calm – You may feel like yelling, screaming, or punishing your child, but it will not help solve the issue. Your child will likely feel like a failure, get defensive and shut down, which makes having an effective, real conversation about the report card impossible).  Also, don't react with 100% disappointment. A poor grade is not a true measure of your child’s capabilities or knowledge. Poor grades are actually often a red flag suggesting that there may be a something more going on, and it may not even be related to school.  

  • So, if your child brings home a bad report, take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and communicate with your child in a calm, open manner. Remember – the goal is to get to the root of the bad grade, and you need your child to feel comfortable and open up to you.


2. Find what’s Positive & Praise it – We encourage you to find the positive in your child’s report card, praise them for it and show them that you are taking into account all information – good and not-so-good. Starting off the conversation by boosting your child’s self-esteem and confidence will get you off on the right foot. Your child wants to you to be proud of them, so make sure you tell them that you are and why.


3. Don’t Lecture – Have a Discussion – Ask your child questions and listen carefully to their answers. If you lecture them, they will tune you out. Remember that the goal is to find out what is going on with your child, and to help motivate your child to work harder and improve.  Lecturing can lead to your child feeling humiliated or even ashamed.

  • Start off by asking them how they feel about school in general, this report card, what they are most proud of, and what they want to do better at
  • Next focus on one subject (and grade) at a time and work through a series of questions like these:
    • What do you think of your grade in ?
    • Do you think that it is a fair grade? 
    • Why do you think your teacher gave you this mark? 
    • What could you have done differently in homework, assignments, or tests?
    • What do you find challenging about the class?
    • What do you like about how your teacher is teaching the subject or class? 
    • What don’t you like about how your teacher is teaching the subject or class?
    • Tell me about where you sit in class and who you sit beside. Can you see the board, hear the teacher, have enough room to work?
  • As your conversation progresses, you may find that your child’s bad grades are not because of anything at school specifically. Rather, they may be the result of some pretty big changes in their home life or life in general, like moving to a new home, or to a new town or city, divorce or separation, or extended family members moving in). Maybe they have transitioned from elementary school to high school and are overwhelmed and too embarrassed to ask for help. Bad grades can also be the result of changes with friends, lack of sleep (maybe due to too many late nights gaming or texting with friends) or too many extracurricular activities.


4. Review the Teacher’s Comments – This is very important as it gives context to why your child has received the grade(s) he or she did, and what they need to work on. Are they focused at school? Are they bored? Perhaps disruptive? Is there any pattern among the subjects that may suggest a common issue or something larger (like a concentration issue or learning challenge)?

  • Remember that perspective is everything when it comes to assessing what a ‘bad’ grade is. You cannot take it at face value either. Your child’s grades may still not be where they need to be, but if your child is making steady progress on improving in challenging subjects, your teacher’s comments will reflect that.  If the comments are not helpful, see tip #5.


5. Meet with Your Child’s Teacher(s) – Your child spends a lot of time with their teacher(s), so setting up a meeting to go over the report card can really help you learn more about your child’s behaviour, habits and performance at school. This meeting can also help you learn more about the teacher(s) , specifically their teaching style, classroom rules, and overall learning philosophy.  Communicating with your child’s teacher(s) can help you better understand why your child is getting the grades they are, reveal potential issues (learning, behavourial, or other like poor hearing or eyesight), and can even help you develop a game plan for future success (see #6). 


6. Develop a Game Plan for Future Success – A good game plan needs realistic goals and grade level expectations to work towards. Why? Because not all kids are straight A students – it’s not realistic to expect 100% perfection in every subject. It’s not because they are not smart either.  They have other gifts and skills where they excel. Being proficient in core subjects (like math, reading, writing, etc.) is a important goal and much more realistic for some kids. Also, expecting your child to move from a D to an A between now and the next progress report or report card is not necessarily realistic. Progressing from a D to a B may more realistic.

  • The best way to set goals is to have your child be part of the process. Brainstorm together both short-term and long-terms goals, as well as the steps they can take to help them get thereA great game plan includes goals that are specific to improving grades (e.g., moving from a C to an B by the next progress report) and goals that are specific to habits that impact these grades (e.g., doing my homework each day in the kitchen with the TV and cell phone off).
  • Consider including rewards or celebrations in your game plan. These are a great way to get and keep your child motivated. They also help your child develop a goal-setting habit and mindset, which are excellent life-long skills to have. Rewards and celebrations do not need to be extravagant. A special dinner, a favourite dessert, renting a movie, buying a new toy, or earning extra screen time can all be effective rewards.
  • Don’t forget to track how they are doing along the way. This will include talking to them, checking in on homework and returned assignments, and check-ins with teachers. You can also set up a worksheet where your child can keep track of their goals (with your help), and how things are progressing.  This is a great way to see if what they are doing is working, and most importantly, gives you all time to make positive changes. When you set goals and track progress, you are helping your child feel pride in their schoolwork and helping them boost their self-esteem and confidence.


7. Support Your Child all the Way to the Finish Line - Your kid’s need your support between now and their next report card (and after that too), and especially as they act on their game plan. The level of support your child needs is unique to them, and where they are struggling. For some parents, support could be helping their child set up a distraction-free work area at home or implementing regular homework/study time each day. Other parents may need to sit with their kids during homework time and help them stay focused. For others, support could be talking regularly with their child’s teachers, and working with them to help your child progress and improve.  Sometimes outside support is needed for certain subjects, like math. Parents can count on Mathnasium of Newmarket for expert math tutoring support, that is personalized to their child’s needs.


It’s important that we remember that bad grades just don’t happen overnight, and neither do good grades. Developing a game plan that improves and rewards good studying and academic habits are needed for a child to make progress, improve or excel in school.  

We hope you have found these tips for how to deal with a bad report card helpful and that your child benefits from them.

If your child needs a math tutor to help them catch up, keep up or get ahead in math, contact us today through our online form or call us at (905) 895-6284. We make learning math fun and are confident we can help change your child's life through math.

Happy Learning!