Learning from the Report Card

According to the guidelines set by the Westwood public school system, it is better not to show our children their report cards. It is better to just tell them what they are doing well in, and what needs improvement.  We want to use the report card not only as a tool to measure progress, but as a way to create a learning opportunity.

Guidelines are useful on a trip, but sometimes too much for the journey; most parents do show their children their report cards and are frank and open with their feelings. If a child does well, we feel triumphant with them, or if we are disappointed, we tell them to do better.

There is nothing actually wrong with sharing either of these feelings with our children. Children need real feelings from their parents; we don’t want them to be raised by distant automatons.

The only thing that can get us into trouble is if our children don’t react to our feelings the way we want them to. Being triumphant when a good report card comes home can unfortunately lead to a child becoming an anxious over-achiever. Being appropriately blasé can lead to a child feeling unappreciated. Understandable disappointment can make a child so dispirited they lose their momentum to do better. Our feelings can be taken badly by our children in a mind-boggling myriad of ways.

The irony of these situations is that we often can’t understand how or why our children react badly to our feelings, so we keep giving them the same feelings, over and over again. And when the child reacts badly, we can become even more rigid. We stay triumphant with the anxious child, and we stay disappointed with the dispirited child.

If you have ever been in such a stand-off, you know what I mean. At these times, it is always good when a parent can just sit back and admit they’re lost. When you can admit you’re lost, you stand a better chance of finding a guide to help you. Certainly, the child is not going to find you any guidebook. They don’t come with a manual.

Well, in this case we have guidelines. The guidelines say this is supposed to be a learning opportunity. Since most learning opportunities require study, all we really have to do is study the situation.

What we want to study is how we feel and how our children feel.  Most of the time, parenting is less about doing the “right thing” than it is about discovering what the right thing is for each child.

This looks easy on paper, but is extremely hard to do in real life. Maybe this is because we are taught to be "consistent". But the truth is, we may need to be somewhat stern with one child, and more encouraging and complimentary with the next.

As you toggle between drill sergeant and cheer leader for each child, you will note that you may prefer one role to the other. Some parents can’t be flexible to their children’s needs, which can make the road rockier for everyone.

Learning how you like to operate and how your child likes to operate is always advisable, but absolutely imperative if your child is not doing well. If your child is either very anxious about their work (the over-achievers) or dispirited, fed up and perhaps, underachieving, there is a lot to study and a lot to learn.

So when that report card comes home, know that beyond a measure of your child’s achievement lies a world of opportunity for learning more about your child’s abilities, you own standards and fears, and what your children need. Study and process what you see; the opportunity is never better than when those grades come in.