What does “being behind” mean? My child’s failure is my failure. Many parents believe this to be true and, therefore, cannot tolerate any deviation from perfect grades, or good grades, whatever that may mean. Therefore, there are various interpretations to the phrase “being behind.” Does it mean being behind everybody in the class, being behind some standard set by parents, or being behind what you are aware your child is capable of achieving? Those of us who have gone through the school system and graduated with a high-level degree can usually recall one or more classes in which we did not perform particularly well. Parents who watch their children’s school behavior with a very critical eye must keep in mind that a child’s functioning is variable. In that variable behavior some children consistently do better in class because they are gifted intellectually, have better work habits, or particularly love some teacher or subject. Most adults choose careers based on what they like. Children do not always have the opportunity to choose classes they enjoy in school.
Some independent measures of a child’s functioning in school.
- Ask your child’s teacher about your child’s performance. Both school grades and a teacher’s comments give you a pretty good indication of how your child is functioning. The assumption is that a child of average intelligence should achieve average grades. As long as a child is functioning at average in class a teacher will not say he or she is behind.
- Have your child evaluated by a child psychologist. This independent evaluation will tell you how bright your child is. If your child is above average intellectually, he or she should be performing above average in school. An evaluation will also help you plan for your child’s future in terms of performance expectations.
- Bright parents usually have bright children. If you and your spouse are college graduates, then you can expect your child to be bright and perform well in school.
- If your child is not doing well in school, you should ask yourself why. You also should take some action, such as having your child evaluated, or changing his or her homework or study habits at home. Could the problem be a learning disability? Could it be due to drugs, truancy, or some emotional problem? As a parent, you have to know your child. You have to know your child’s intellectual ability. Some children are better than others at using words and ideas. Some are better at creating things and using their hands.
- Parents need information to help formulate plans and make reasonable demands and expectations of their child. Not all children should go to college, because some do not have the cognitive skills. However, in this day and age, when blue-collar workers often make more money than their white-collar counterparts, there is less value judgment on those who do not get a college degree.
Listen to your child. One source of information about your child is your child. Parents do not often listen to what their child says. Sometimes the information is there waiting for parents to listen to and act upon. Many children, given the opportunity, will tell their parents about their problems. The informed parent can then make a better decision that will really work, rather than a unilateral decision in which the child plays no part.
- Remember that school grading is subjective and may differ with different teachers.
- Schools differ in how children are graded. If you are not aware of how your child’s school is grading compared to other schools, try to find out from the principal of your school.
- When in doubt, seek independent evaluators such as an educational or child psychologist.