What to Do if Your Child Is Failing at School

Getting bad grades isn't a happy situation for anyone involved. The key to overcoming this situation is working together to improve your child's academic performance.
What to Do if Your Child Is Failing at School

Last update: 22 May, 2018

In this article, you’ll find tips on what to do if your child is failing at school.

Grades are a reflection of the time and effort that students put in at school. Unfortunately, the report card that your child brings home each semester doesn’t always describe the capable and responsible student that you know they can be.

Parents react in different ways when their child comes home with poor grades. Some imagine a dark future, as if one bad grade was enough to condemn us to failure for the rest of our lives.

Other parents feel guilty about the situation. They blame themselves or each other for not doing enough to motivate or discipline their child.

The reality is that neither of these extremes is healthy. A bad report card doesn’t mean that all is lost. And the fact that your child is failing at school doesn’t make you a bad parent.

This is an uncomfortable situation, but it’s something that you can overcome with effort and understanding on both sides.

Your child is probably not happy about their grades, either. It’s up to you to guide them back onto the right track.

How to react if your child is failing at school

All of the above doesn’t go to say that failing at school is unimportant or that you don’t need to take action. On the contrary, a bad report is an early warning.

If you act now, there is a lot that you can do to help. So, if your child’s report card comes with a nasty surprise, try to follow these recommendations.

1. Stay calm

However anxious or upset you might feel, lashing out won’t get you anywhere. If you shout at your child or punish them for failing at school, you’ll only harm their self-esteem.

The next time they have a test or project, the fear of failure will put them under even more pressure.

2. Don’t ascribe their difficulties to their personality

A big mistake that many parents make is to let out phrases like “you’re lazy” or “you’re no good at this.” This isn’t true at all.

What to Do if Your Child Is Failing at School

What you should seek to do is change your child’s mindset. Treat the difficult subject or school in general as a challenge. This is an obstacle that your child can overcome – for their own good.

If you hurt your child’s feelings with negativity, you’ll only take away what motivation they still have. This kind of criticism may even make matters worse if it goes on over time.

Your child could go from lack of focus to truly disruptive behavior.

3. Look for solutions

Everyone involved needs to have a constructive and positive attitude. This includes the student, their parents and teachers.

Once a problem has been identified, make sure to keep up communication. Work together to identify a solution to turn their bad grades around.

When a child is failing at school, there are many possible reasons. The causes may be temporary, such as a lack of time to study or poor time management.

Or more serious problems may come into play, such as sleep disorders, social anxiety or family issues, stress, mental exhaustion or learning disabilities.

“Failing at school is an uncomfortable situation, but it is one that you can get over with effort and understanding on both sides”

4. Recognize your role

This is particularly difficult for some parents to do. Although every student must take responsibility for their studies, we can also ask ourselves what we’re doing for their education.

First and foremost is the example that you set as a parent. Are you keeping up with your own responsibilities, or do you put things off?

Secondly, it’s worth asking yourself whether your child feels comfortable communicating with you. If they were going through a difficult time, would they be able to tell you?

Last but not least, make sure that you aren’t forcing your child to study to the detriment of all other needs. This can put them off learning.

The best students tend to have parents who let them establish their own study routine. Trust is key to building self-discipline in young people.

What to Do if Your Child Is Failing at School

5. Work together

Once your child is ready to talk about their grades and try to improve them, it’s time for you to work together.

Ask them what they feel they need to do. What happened, and how can you help make things better?

Maybe your child would learn better with a study companion. Perhaps they need a private teacher or tutor, or for you or your partner to take on that role.

If your child is failing at school, this doesn’t necessarily mean they lack the will or self-discipline to succeed. They may be doing their very best, and still struggling to meet expectations.

Reach out to your child and help them improve. This moment could be an important life lesson for them.

To sum up, failing at school isn’t the end of the world. Let your child know that you’re on their side and help them face this moment with enthusiasm and determination.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., … Japel, C. (2007). School Readiness and Later Achievement. Developmental Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1428
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.