6 Keys When Children Get Bad Grades

If children get bad grades, yelling at them isn't the solution. Help them identify difficulties and implement changes to improve.
6 Keys When Children Get Bad Grades
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 24 September, 2022

Academic training is fundamental for the integral development of human beings. Taking advantage of the years of schooling not only helps your children to access better jobs in the future but will also nurture them on a personal level. At this stage, values such as responsibility, planning, and perseverance are developed, and that’s where we should focus if our children get bad grades.

In short, we all know that the education system isn’t the fairest and most adequate. A number on a piece of paper isn’t a reliable reflection of the child’s abilities or the effort they’ve put in during the school year. However, it can serve as a guide to making decisions for the future. So, what should you do when faced with poor grades? Keep reading the following article to find out.

Why do children get bad grades?

It’s important to keep in mind that there are several factors that can affect academic performance, such as learning difficulties; personal, family, or social problems; bad study habits, or a tendency to procrastinate, among others. As you can see, low grades aren’t always the result of laziness and a lack of effort. Moreover, even if they were, this would be the result of a lack of motivation that’s not solely the child’s responsibility.

Parents and teachers must be involved in order for students to achieve their full potential. So, when your child shows you their grades and they’re not as good as you expected, try to keep a broad perspective. Yelling, excessive punishment, and humiliation aren’t appropriate ways to deal with the problem. Therefore, we want to suggest some alternatives that may be useful.

Instead of scolding the child for his low grades, it is best to stay calm and talk with him to see what are the causes and seek joint solutions.
Instead of scolding your child when they get bad grades, it’s best to stay calm and talk with them to discover the causes behind their poor academic performance and seek solutions together.

How to act when children get bad grades

If you don’t know how to respond to this situation, here are some of the guidelines you can implement.

1. Keep calm

The job of children is to study and meet their academic commitments. Therefore, when faced with bad grades, parents’ first impulse may be to feel angry, indignant, or disappointed. However, losing your temper isn’t the best solution. Yelling at children, labeling them as lazy, or humiliating them will only drive a wedge between you and can also cause emotional wounds.

On the contrary, if you remain calm and open to dialogue and analyze the causes together with your child, you can reach important conclusions that will help you to reverse the situation in the future. It’s more important to find a solution than to engage in endless conflicts.

2. Recognize and reinforce the positive aspects

Don’t forget to recognize and value those subjects in which the child has obtained good results. Often, failures overshadow achievements and they end up being overlooked, but this shouldn’t be the case. If your child has failed English class but excelled in math, don’t detract from this achievement. It’s a good opportunity to help build positive self-esteem in your child, which will help them cope with more challenging subjects.

3. Identify possible underlying problems

Some children have learning difficulties that require professional intervention. If you suspect this, it’s essential that you seek help to clarify the situation and get guidance.

In addition, family difficulties, conflicts with peers or teachers, and even children’s level of emotional intelligence can prevent them from performing well in school. Your child may be going through a difficult situation that you’re not yet aware of or have overlooked. Don’t miss the opportunity to inquire about it.

4. Improve study habits and establish good planning

Studying isn’t just about sitting in a chair and reading a book. Study habits and techniques are fundamental for the good use of time and cognitive resources. Be sure to implement good study habits and teach your child to plan, organize learning time, and use the right methods.

A young girl doing homework at a desk.
Help your child get organized and use the right techniques to make the most of their study time.

5. Reward effort rather than results

School grades come in about three times a year, but the really important work is done every day. Does your child study and complete their homework assignments? This is what you need to focus on and encourage, not just a number or letter written on a piece of paper.

Motivate your child to strive every day to meet small goals and celebrate their daily dedication. This way, you take pressure off their experience and provide daily feedback that can be very positive.

6. Punishments and consequences

What about punishments? Are they appropriate and recommended? The answer depends on the educational style that each family implements. Generally, it’s more effective and healthy to rely on natural consequences. That is, if your child has failed several subjects, they’ll have to study over the summer to make up for it, and, naturally, this will take away from fun time. There’s no need to ban video games in order for them to experience these consequences.

However, if punishments are to be applied, they must be proportional and based on privileges and not on basic needs. That is, you can reduce the hours you allow your child to watch television, but you shouldn’t restrict other beneficial activities such as sports or cultural activities, or prevent them from maintaining social contact with their friends. Remember that the objective isn’t to make him suffer or pay for their mistake, but to help them to be more responsible.

When children get bad grades we must involve them in the search for solutions

If your child has obtained bad grades, try to identify the difficulties they may have and focus on finding solutions together. Don’t look for them on your own and impose them in a unidirectional way. Instead, it’s better to invite your child to take part in the decision-making process, as this will involve them to a greater extent and avoid friction between you.

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.

  • Buenrostro, A.E., Valadez, M.D., Soltero, R., Nava, G., Zambrano, R. y García, A. (2011). Inteligencia emocional y rendimiento académico en adolescentes. Revista de Educación y Desarrollo, 20, 29-37.
  • Erazo-Santander, O. (2011). El rendimiento académico, un fenómeno de múltiples relaciones y complejidades. Revista Vanguardia Psicológica clínica teórica y práctica2(2), 144-173.

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