The Psychology Behind Your Child’s Report Card

report cardThe end of the first quarter of this school year is fast approaching. For many students, especially high-performing students, this means scrambling to turn in any missing assignments, checking to ensure their scores have been correctly entered into the grading system, and rehearsing their explanation speeches to parents about why some grades may not be as high as expected.

As parents, it may be easy for us to set academic expectations for our children, but do we really consider the diversity of variables that play a part in contributing to our child’s grade performance?

Before you look at your child’s next report card, consider the following elements that may be impacting their academic performance.


Sometimes kids may underperform if they lack interest in the material being taught. They may turn in their school work late or choose not to do certain assignments because they do not view these tasks as meaningful. It can be very difficult for us as adults to put energy into the things that do not interest us!


In some cases, kids may have multiple assignments, projects, and tests to prepare for each week. They may strategically underperform in one subject area in order to harness the energy needed to focus on another subject. For example, a kid may choose not to complete an essay in one class worth 5% of her grade so that she can focus on completing a more intensive project worth 50% of her grade. Some of the most organized adults I know still struggle to complete all of their weekly tasks. We all usually end up prioritizing and focusing on what’s most important or pressing to us.


Sometimes, our kids really do exert as much energy and effort as they can into doing their best but still fall short. Yet, parents may still be in disbelief and send underlying messages to kids that their best is still not enough. Have you ever been chastised at work for not performing up to par when you tried your best?


Stress can impact a child’s ability to focus in school. Stressors like divorce, a family move, a death in the family, or issues with friends can be a major distraction for kids. Think back to a time when you experienced stress. Were you able to give 100% to your office work?

Teacher Relationships

Your child’s relationship with a teacher can often make or break motivation to succeed in a class. An awesome relationship with a teacher can inspire a child to do his best even in a subject in which he lacks interest. However, a poor relationship with a teacher can sour your child’s attitude about a subject in which she shows a high level of interest. Have you ever worked with an awesome leader who inspired you to go above and beyond? Or, have you ever been subjected to a terrible boss who made you loathe stepping into the office?


Do your children feel comfortable asking for help? Some kids constantly ask questions while others feel that they will be judged if they reach out for help. The confidence to speak up can make or break their academic performance. You can ask your children for their help with your own projects to let them see that even high functioning adults need assistance at times.

Family Support

Do our academic expectations for our children match the support that we provide to them? How often do we show a genuine interest in what they are learning? Do we offer to lend our help with a major project? Do we provide them with additional experiences to help them master competency and build skills? Make sure that your expectations match the support that you are willing to give.

Regardless of what grades appear on your child’s next report card, be sure to show that your love is ever-present and not contingent upon letters of an alphabet.

Let’s keep creating experiences where kids feel the self-acceptance they need to become the next generation of innovators and thought leaders!

gifted kidsAbout the Author

Erica Whitfield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and over 10 years of experience working with children and adolescents. She is the Founder of Positive Development, LLC, a counseling practice for youth located in Jacksonville, Florida. Erica combines expressive therapies using art, music, physical movement and writing, with evidenced-based therapeutic modalities such as CBT, solution-focused and positive psychology approaches to help children and adolescents process past trauma, transition during difficult life adjustments, form healthier relationships, perform better in school and work through self-harming behaviors. She specializes in providing strengths-based counseling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity.


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