Dealing with School Setbacks

By: Jolene Roehlkepartain
We all want our kids to succeed in school, but success is not as simple as climbing a ladder. Setbacks will occur. Here’s how to get through the tough times to help your child excel. Read more >

An almost foolproof way to minimize school setbacks is to become actively involved in your child’s education. How? Create ways to make it easy for your child to do homework every day, attend parent-teacher conferences and open houses, and work with your child to solve sticky school problems.

Set up a special homework corner and create designated “homework time” every day. In our family, we started this when our kids went to kindergarten. We were aware that our kids wouldn’t have much homework at this age, but we did it anyway, so that they would grow accustomed to the routine. When our kids didn’t have homework, we had them read (or look at) books during designated homework time. Once the routine was in place, it was easier to deal with school setbacks. Why? Because had already set clear expectations for school success.

School setbacks can sneak up on you as a parent if you’re not involved in your child’s education on a regular basis. That’s because many kids tend to hide problems and difficulties. Other kids dismiss small issues and don’t realize how quickly small problems can grow into big ones.

As kids grow, the changes they go through can exacerbate school setbacks. As kids enter puberty (or if they’re starting at a new school), they can get caught up in the social aspect of their development. Friends become more important than doing well in school. Some even purposefully do worse in school just to attract and keep friends.

Learn more about kids and friends >

Keep on the lookout for school issues in a broader way. Sometimes the problem isn’t just about your child not understanding the learning material. Sometimes a child might be getting harassed or bullied at school. Sometimes a child might be having a hard time getting along with a teacher. Sometimes a child is grieving the loss of a best friend who no longer wants to be with him or her. All these situations can impact how your child does in school.

Once you notice a difficulty, deal with it right away. When one of my kids was doing poorly in second grade because of illegible printing, my child and I met with the teacher right away. We discovered my child was extremely double jointed, which made it difficult for him to write. The teacher than began tutoring my child before school, and that made all the difference.

How to build strong parent-teacher relationship >

Another one of my kids had problems with a teacher one year. The two did not get along. He apparently knew how to push all her buttons, and she knew how to push his. My son and I talked a lot about how to get along with people you may not like. I encouraged my teenager to figure out ways how to work with this teacher instead of against her. My son began experimenting with different ways to interact with this teacher. By the end of the school year, he had made great progress. He had figured out how to learn from this teacher even though it was difficult for him.

When school setbacks occur, some parents step in more and stay more involved until the setback resolves. You might find that checking your child’s progress every day through the school’s web site is effective. You can ask your child (or her teacher) about assignments, tardiness, and upcoming tests. Talk to your child every day about what’s happening in school.

As your child begins to make progress, step back a bit, but continue to monitor her progress from afar. Continue to set expectations for academic success at home so that your child can succeed at school.



1. School Problems, ParentFurther.

2. School Success, ParentFurther.

3. Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, ParentFurther.

Another idea that you should do is make the learning environment more enjoyable and fun? If you take your kids to a museum (like the Indianapolis Children’s Museum for example) where they can get hands-on-learning experience, kids can become more excited about learning. The main thing to remember is to let the kids have fun and they’ll be more open to learning.


Jolene, another great article with lots of worthwhile links. Children don’t learn how to deal with setbacks overnight. They learn by watching the adults in their life work through their problems. They learn by having a parent and child explore together the various options available.

Click below for the article, Educator’s Guide to Active Listening, that was written for teachers, but could be helpful to parents.

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