Do Grades Really Matter?

But there are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified Top Secret.
— Ronald Reagan

Most of us won’t ever see one of our children become president. But most of us will have the experience of our children wanting to hide from us a bad grade or report card. It’s important to keep in mind that while school performance is one measure of success in life, there are many types of intelligence and lots of different learning styles. Grades certainly aren’t everything. A child who struggles to earn Cs may end up in a successful sales or design career. Another child who breezes by with all As may find that life in the real world isn’t as easy as in school. You can best help your children make the most of their interests and talents by giving them support, encouragement, and skills for doing their best while developing their own unique gifts.

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • Let children play with toys they like. This helps them find their motivation inside—they’re having fun to please themselves, not to please others.
    • Turn off the television and computer and give children interesting toys, books, and art supplies. This gives them a chance to explore, experiment, and play.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Be available when children have questions, but don’t be an “answer person.” Ask more questions to get children thinking or guide them to resources that will help them learn more.
    • Use spontaneous rewards with no strings attached. If you expect children to work hard and learn new skills, they probably will. Instead of saying “I’ll take you to the park if you finish your assignment,” say, “You finished your assignment? Great! Let’s go to the park to celebrate.”
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Find out what the requirements are for getting the grades you and your children expect, and then stay in contact with teachers about their progress. Don’t wait for report cards.
    • Help your children prioritize homework assignments, particularly large projects that need to be done over time. It’s best for many young people to do the most challenging parts early on—to get them out of the way before fatigue or frustration sets in.
    • Talk with your children about school and learning. Ask them every day what they did in school, what they learned, what they liked about school, what they didn’t like about it. Stay in touch with their school experience.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Make it a point to attend school conferences and special events.
    • Take it seriously when your teenagers express boredom or frustration with school or mention other problems (even small ones). Talk with them more, if they will, and consult teachers if the concerns seem significant.
  • Invite your teenagers to join you in taking a class or learning opportunity outside of their school (such as a community education class, a seminar at a nature center, or some sort of training).

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