My son, who is in fourth grades, takes it really hard whenever he doesn't get an A. He cries and gets really upset. We don't pressure him academically, and I'm not sure where this attitude is coming from. How can I lower the stakes for him?

Answers

Scott Braithwaite, Homework help its simple

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In modern society, great importance is attached to education and the resulting assessments, and the involvement of parents in the educational process is often correlated with the success of their children in school. The consequence of this is that many parents go head over to raising children, spending a lot of money, time and nerves on it. But they do not always get the expected result, as evidenced by unsatisfactory assessments. According to the experts studydaddy in the field of education, the lack of reward for the efforts made is often associated with a lack of understanding by parents of their role in teaching children, which leads them to mistakes that interfere with their studies. In some cases, these are acts that are related not so much to study as to the style of education in the family, namely, such frequent mistakes as excessive guardianship, lack of restrictions, negative attitudes towards everything, or bad examples. And other frequent mistakes are associated with ignorance of the most appropriate answer to questions like: Should parents learn with their children? Help them with their homework? Check homework? Check and correct school assignments before they are surrendered by children? Reward for good grades? Giving additional assignments if the teacher is not very demanding? To hire tutors? Of course, you need to entrust training to professional tutors who understand this and will be able to stimulate your son on the right path!

Dylan Ferniany, Gifted and Talented Education Program Administrator

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Perfectionism and anxiety often go hand in hand. For some students, these traits are internal but I do think that learning environments, peer groups, and parental pressures can also play a part in these tendencies. I would try to find out what the root of this perfectionism is. As a recovering perfectionist, and an educator who has worked with many gifted and talented students who are perfectionists, I think it is important to teach students how to deal with not getting A's. First of all, when we don't get A's hopefully it means that the teacher has high expectations and knows we can do better. So teaching that getting a B or a C is an opportunity for learning, and that it is important to use it as a learning experience for next time. Encouraging your child to have a conversation with the teacher about the grade may be helpful in a) helping him advocate for himself in school, and b) seeing that not getting an A can be a learning experience, or a sign that a teacher thinks that you can do more or that there is more you can do to master the concept. All of the other advice given here is wonderful too! Oftentimes perfectionism runs across different areas of a child's life. It took me all the way through my doctoral program not to get upset about a B or a C, but looking back these were some of my more rigorous (and favorite!) teachers and professors. Educators are starting to look at grading practices more critically and what they really tell us about student learning. It sounds like you are coming at this issue from the right place and working to understand your child and help him to deal with setbacks.

Scarlet Michaelson, English and Writing Teacher

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Many kids start to become extra-sensitive around fourth and fifth grade. One thing to think about is whether there are other issues that he reacts to in this way, or is it only about his grades? I agree with the other experts that talking to him a bit, to his teachers, and perhaps to a child psychologist may help in understanding the situation. Another thing you can do is to praise him for doing things that are non-grade related. For example, helping out at home, or making an insightful or funny comment, or picking out a matching outfit to wear. This way he will get the subtle message that grades aren't the only way to make his mark. Not only him, but other people around you and even characters in television shows can be praised for their character and special skills. Sometimes our society emphasizes academic achievement at the expense of good character traits, even with our children. Don't let your son fall under this spell– he's still young enough not to.

Christine VanDonge, Senior Research Analyst

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Good Evening!

I think there are a few places you could start with your son to better understand his feelings.

  1. Try to talk to him about his feelings at a time OTHER than when his grades come home. If his anxiety/feelings are already flooding him, he may have a difficult time clearly articulating where those feelings come from (or what they are related to). If he struggles to talk about his feeling consider having him draw a picture of what happens when he gets his grades or have him do a puppet show where the characters act out how he feels.

  2. Consider other places he might be receiving pressure. Peers? Teachers? Relatives? Siblings? Media? Although you may not be placing direct pressure on him, he may be getting the message from someone he is contact with regularly that good grades are important.

  3. Consider other ways in which he might be getting the message that it is important to be at the top. Does your son play sports? Does he feel pressure to do his best, be his best, or win? Is this translating to other areas of his life?

If you evaluate these questions and still are left confused it might be worth while to talk to the school counselor. It might also be worth while to consider finding a therapist who specializes in play therapy. My guess is he still a little young for talk therapy, but he might be able to play out whatever is going on.

Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions!

Lunam Kelly, excel

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Manya Whitaker, PhD, Developmental/Educational Psychologist; Assistant Professor of Education; Educational Consultant

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The only thing I'd add to what the other experts said is to consider the extensive body of work done by developmental psychologist, Carol Dweck. Her work on children's perception of their intelligence discusses how many kids--because of high pressured academic environments--have a fixed mindset: they believe their grades reflect their intelligence. A low grade means they aren't smart. It may be that your son has made this association. Conversely, some children have a growth mindset: they view their intelligence as something that can grow with a lot of effort and hard work. These children take academic risks and view failure as an opportunity for improvement. What you can do: praise his effort and process, not his outcomes. Even when he gets As, instead of saying "you're so smart!" say "- You must've studied hard for that test". When children see important adults valuing something other than outcome, they start to realize that it is the process of learning that is important, not the evaluation of it. Good luck!

Manya Whitaker, PhD, Developmental/Educational Psychologist; Assistant Professor of Education; Educational Consultant

User avatar for Manya Whitaker, PhD

The only thing I'd add to what the other experts said is to consider the extensive body of work done by developmental psychologist, Carol Dweck. Her work on children's perception of their intelligence discusses how many kids--because of high pressured academic environments--have a fixed mindset: they believe their grades reflect their intelligence. A low grade means they aren't smart. It may be that your son has made this association. Conversely, some children have a growth mindset: they view their intelligence as something that can grow with a lot of effort and hard work. These children take academic risks and view failure as an opportunity for improvement. What you can do: praise his effort and process, not his outcomes. Even when he gets As, instead of saying "you're so smart!" say "- You must've studied hard for that test". When children see important adults valuing something other than outcome, they start to realize that it is the process of learning that is important, not the evaluation of it. Good luck!

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Hi, Have you spoken with his teacher about this? I know Amy mentioned this as well. Many students become frustrated when they don't achieve certain grades, and teachers may not realize the extent of your son's sadness at home. An initial conversation may help the teacher recognize behaviors in the classroom -- perhaps related to peer pressure -- that will help you better understand your son's responses. A good second step might be a meeting with the teacher and your son so that he might see your concerns and validation in a different environment. Often in these situations, emotions are connected to a misunderstanding that goes unarticulated.

Amy McElroy, Former Attorney, Writer, Editor, parent of a junior high and high school student

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I agree with the other expert that you need to figure out why your son is so upset about his grades. Also, talking to him at a time when he is not already upset is excellent advice, though I know it's hard to think about upsetting him when he's feeling ok.

Let's do some brainstorming about possibilities for why he may be tense about his grades. Peers may be talking about them. Kids are starting to hear about the pressures of getting into college earlier and earlier, and many have misperceptions about when grades start to "count." Older siblings also contribute to this discussion. So, questions like "What are you worried will happen if you don't get A's?" might be a good place to start.

You might also talk to his teacher about this issue. The teacher may have some insight about whether there is discussion in class about grades, comparison, peer pressure; the teacher may unknowingly pressure the students for A's in some way that you may be able to discern through a face-to-face conversation. Is there a reward or punishment related to getting A's in class? Does the teacher talk about future consequences?

Sometimes kids are simply worried about making mistakes or not being the best. They worry they are not lovable unless they are "perfect," and making A's represents perfection in their minds. For many of us, learning how to accept that we are not perfect and that we are allowed to make mistakes can take a lifetime, but this is a good time to start. Assuring your children that they are always loved for who they are, not for how they perform or what they accomplish, and reassuring them that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect is a message that you will need to repeat again and again through the years. And therapy may be necessary if anxiety over these issues persists. I don't believe 4th or 5th grade is too early, depending on how severe the symptoms are. Best of luck to you both.

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