Instead of focussing on grades, encouragement and rewards help children fare better in academics. Here are a few tips for parents

The environment in the classroom and at home has changed a lot. It is now quite common not to expect too much from a child, and not to react badly to poor grades. But, can a liberal environment lead to children not realising their potential? “If careless errors are a matter of concern, parents can seek help to improve their child’s performance at school,” says Archana Singh, teacher at DAV Public School, Navi Mumbai.

“What makes a liberal environment, is subjective, and varies from home to home. But an appropriate one would respect the child and his views, as he would have the freedom to express them amidst family members,” says Anjali Chhabria, consultant psychiatrist in Mumbai. “The child is encouraged to pursue his interests. If parents can provide such an environment, along with a little discipline, the child is sure to excel.”

Discuss expectations

Discuss expectations with your child, not just when an examination is approaching, but throughout the academic year. A child should not be confused by mixed expectations — on the one hand, he is told that results don’t matter and, on the other, he is told how important they are. Discuss clearly with your child the implications of grades, so that he is motivated to take them seriously. Routine studies results in an ideal outcome.

Clear expectations lead to a healthy attitude towards exams and results. Let your child understand that he/she is studying for himself/herself, to have a better career opportunity and future. They are not studying to make parents happy. Do not spoon-feed your child or stop concentrating on your life because of your child’s studies. Many parents remove cable connections, stop going out of the house, and stay at home with their children during their exams. Your child has to study to get good grades, without your supervision. Let him/her study in his/her own way and see his/her performance. If you put restrictions, your child may stop all activities, but does that mean he is really studying? Parents need to be involved, but not too much. Always encourage and help your child feel proud of his/her academic achievements.

Reacting to report cards

When your child’s report card for the term comes in, don’t fervently look for the low grades. Check out the better grades first. Chances are your child will say he got a ‘C’ in a particular subject. Tell him ‘C’ is not a good grade, and then discuss what went wrong. You need to empathise with your child, as no child is proud of bad marks. All children feel ashamed when they do not perform well. Once your child has vented his feelings, you must have a relaxed conversation to understand his weaknesses. “Use grades as a yardstick to learn from mistakes, rather than to reprimand the child. A child can be motivated by being told that he is obviously capable of better grades, as he has managed a few ‘As’ and ‘Bs’,” says Singh.

The best parental reaction is to keep your emotions under control and try to understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, instead of being judgmental. “Parents need to understand that a child’s academic performance does not reflect how good or bad they are as parents. If parents keep their emotions under control, they will be able to react to their child’s performance appropriately,” says Dr. Chhabria. By scolding or shouting, you are making your child either to become a rebel or have low self-confidence and esteem.

Never react in front of your child’s friends, siblings or family members if your child has fared badly. This causes them embarrassment and will make them aggressive or depressed, she says. Even if the child has performed well, many parents still react by asking ‘who came first’ or saying ‘you could have done better than him/her.’ Learn to appreciate your child’s efforts. Also, do not make your child feel superior or overconfident for getting all-round good grades so that he/she looks down on others who are academically weak. This could hamper your child’s personality development.

At the end of it, celebrate regardless of the results, good or bad. Results are definitely important, and they do, to an extent, indicate your child’s strengths and weaknesses. But a report card does not necessarily indicate your child’s intelligence. Grades are not the ‘be all’ and ‘end all’ of the schooling experience. Celebrate the passing of the term or exam and the end of the academic year. Then you and your child will be rejuvenated to begin afresh with new, and perhaps, higher aspirations.