How to Help a Child Who Has Failed at School

Failing at school is a real social dilemma that can be viewed from different angles. In principle, it's essential that parents, teachers and school administration make an effort to communicate about the student's problems at school in order to help the child overcome this setback.
How to Help a Child Who Has Failed at School

Last update: 09 May, 2019

When a student isn’t performing up to the level expected in his or her grade, you should take action. How do you help a child who has failed at school? There are different strategies to help him or her overcome this difficult moment.

Is failing a tragedy?

When a child repeats a year, people automatically associate it with laziness and with having learning disabilities or emotional problems. However, generalizations are never good.

Rather than a learning disability or emotional problem, it may just be the child lacks the same level of maturity as his peers at this stage and needs the chance to absorb the subject matter and to go over the material again.

Dyslexia, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder can also be the cause, and none of these are the child’s fault.

It can also reflect negatively on the school if a child is held back a year. When children fail a course, the school has to justify it with the authorities and government subsidized schools may have their funding reduced.

In some cases, to avoid these problems, students with low grades are still passed on to the next grade. However, the authorities aren’t considering what is probably best for the child in meeting their immediate learning goals.

Lack of motivation, another cause

Lack of motivation is another common cause of school failure; the student doesn’t want to study and is therefore made to repeat a grade.

The teacher has an active role in deciding if a student should repeat a year or advance to the next grade. It’s fundamental that the child or adolescent receives a lot of support and validation if he or she is floundering at school.

The parents should try to understand the distinct emotional causes for this setback and their child’s difficulties in school. They should assess the situation and not just set out to punish the child.

In some instances, however, it might be correct to give the student some sort of sanction or punishment if he’s being defiant or really not putting in enough effort. But ultimately you should weigh any punishment in terms of how to help a child who has failed.

Pedagogically it’s up to the school more than the parents to define strategies to help a child who has repeated a course.

The student will need pedagogical and psychological reinforcement as tools for reincorporation into the classroom, but parents and teachers should evaluate each case individually to understand precisely what the student needs.

Advice to help a child who has failed

Consider changing schools

It’s also worth considering the demands and particularities of each case. If the child is struggling and doesn’t have the ability to perform to the level of the school where he’s currently enrolled, it can be healthy to consider a transfer.

Sometimes a change of environment or another approach to teaching can help a student improve. You should consider a change even if it means placing the student in a different school from where his siblings are studying.

How to Help a Child Who Has Failed at School

The fear of failure is something else that parents have to take into consideration. If the child loses motivation, the prognosis can be very negative. For this reason, it can be helpful to seek psychological help in dealing with this problem.

A general change in attitude

When the school year ends, the child should reinforce the content he should have mastered over summer vacation. This will reinforce learning and help him be better prepared for the next school year.

However, if there is little change in the student’s attitude towards studying, doing homework, and paying attention in class, there is little hope that the situation will improve in the next year. For this reason, parents and teachers need to be vigilant of the student’s progress.

Parents should maintain or even increase the amount of interaction with the teachers if they see their child is struggling. You should follow the student’s progress in detail and familiarize yourself with his scholastic activities.

In some cases it may be necessary to get the child private classes. This will show interest and concern for the future of your child.

How to help a child who has failed? Rewards for effort

You should always use rewards for effort and sanctions for undesirable behavior. If the student puts in the hard work, a special outing on the weekend can be a good idea.

Making an effort shows motivation and rewards are a tool to help motivate children. Getting children to recognize their own motivation is something to encourage more generally as well.

Keep in mind that repeating a year can seem like a shameful or embarrassing label to a youngster. However, we’re talking about young people who have to make an effort to overcome an obstacle, and it’s good to help them realize this.

“When a child repeats a year, it’s associated with laziness, a lack of intelligence or emotional problems. Generalizations, nonetheless, are never good.”

Remain calm and composed

Parents should listen calmly to their children’s accounts of their struggles at school. You should also speak with the teachers or tutors to get their impressions.

If the cause is related to some disability like dyslexia, you should seek professional help.

If the cause seems linked only to low performance and lack of motivation, you’ll have to help the student organize his time and improve his study habits.

On the other hand, despite your own frustrations, it’s important to transmit optimism and confidence. You have to remember that the child is also suffering from failing the year. He’s asking himself what’ll happen with his friends and his future.

How to Help a Child Who Has Failed at School

Therefore, you should measure the punishments and orient them to helping to teach the child more self-discipline with school work. Teach him to make more of an effort and take on more responsibility for his performance at school.

Reassurance is also important when it comes to helping a child who has failed. Reassure him that he’ll still continue to see his friends and he’ll overcome these obstacles.

In some cases, a reprimand may work when it’s clear that repeating a year has to do with a child’s lack of interest and effort.

Having to start the school year in the same grade with new classmates who are younger will be uncomfortable for the child or adolescent. His or her self-esteem can be damaged if the matter isn’t dealt with properly.

The help of parents, teachers, and the school will be key and will determine whether the student successfully overcomes this setback. Helping a child who has failed at school or repeated a year is a task that has to be tackled together.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.