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Parenting Your Teenager: What To Do With A Bad Report Card

   By: Jeff Herring

Phil Collins once sang "I can feel it comin' in the air tonight............" While I don't think he was singing about report cards coming home, he sure could have been.

Report cards, those powerful little pieces of paper. Report cards can strike fear and dread into the hearts of both students and parents. So much of the power struggle around school revolves around all those letters and numbers that show up on report cards.

If you are looking forward to a good report card coming home, or if a good report card has already made it home to you, congratulations, that is something to celebrate.

If you are dreading another bad report card, or a bad report card has already made it home, hang in there, because there are many things we can do.

A bad report card is not the end of the world. In fact, there are some steps to take to improve things by next report card time.

One of my favorite solutions for bad report cards

List the grades from the most recent grading period on the left hand side of a piece of paper. Now, across from each grade, on the right hand side of the paper, list the grade goal for the next grading period.

Here is the important part: make it only one grade higher than in the last grading period. This makes pulling grades up look manageable to a teenager. You can tell them, however, that it is perfectly acceptable to improve by more than one grade if they choose to do so.

Here's an example of this system:

D to C C to B C to B B to A F to D D to C D to C

Now it may not seem like much to go from an F to a D, or even a D to a C, but check this out:

The difference in the Grade Point Average (GPA) between the first and second grading period using this system is the difference between a score of 1.42 and a score of 2.43.

Make a one letter grade improvement in each class in each of the next grading periods, and within two grading periods you've got some very nice grades on your hands.

Progress not perfection

I know it is our tendency as parents to want, expect, or even demand our kids to do more than one letter grade better. And yea, OK, they are certainly capable of it. What you want to remember is two of the important goals we have with this system:

1) Make improvement look manageable to the student. This one is important because many times studens will dig themselves a huge hole, and then convicne themselves there is no way to get out.

2) we are shooting for progress here, not perfection.

A bad report card is no fun – for students or parents. Using the one letter grade higher system can give you and your student hope and direction in manageable pieces.

Visit for tips and tools for thriving during the teen years. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 5 day e-program on The Top 5 Things to Never Say to Your Teenager, from parenting coach and expert Jeff Herring .

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