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Expert advice on how parents should view their child’s report card

According to Abbotts College Centurion principal Sanet van Rensburg, said there are a few ways in which this can be facilitated by parents, when sitting down with their child to discuss their results. Picture: Pexels

According to Abbotts College Centurion principal Sanet van Rensburg, said there are a few ways in which this can be facilitated by parents, when sitting down with their child to discuss their results. Picture: Pexels

Published Apr 11, 2022

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Receiving report cards is one of the major annual milestones at traditional schools, aimed at providing insight into how a child is progressing in a specific year.

But as students enter the second term, many parents are receiving the report cards for the first term now and already dreading the next assessments that will be arriving in about 10 weeks’ time.

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According to Abbotts College Centurion principal Sanet van Rensburg, the report card should not be viewed as a definitive ruling on a child’s academic ability, but rather be used as a guide on the road towards success.

There are a few ways in which this can be facilitated by parents, when sitting down with their child to discuss their results, van Rensburg said.

"So which principles should guide the discussion that will take place when a child brings home a report card in June? I believe that the backdrop of any such conversation must be what Dr Carol Dweck calls a 'Growth Mindset'. She coined the term in 2006 in a book entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Students with a 'growth mindset' believe their skills and talents can be developed through effort and persistence. Whereas those with a 'fixed mindset' believe their success is determined by natural talent or intelligence," she said.

Van Rensburg said research shows that the language and actions of parents can have a powerful impact on their children’s mindsets and achievement.

The Growth Mindset theory can be put into practice by parents regardless of a child’s results – whether they be fantastic or concerning.

Distinctions

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Some report cards trigger immediate praise. However, if your child brings home an excellent report card, and you praise your child for being smart, through this a fixed mindset is being promoted. It sends a message that their accomplishments are based on the constant attributes they were born with.

Van Rensburg said in contrast, praising children for working hard fosters a growth mindset.

"It sends a message that the child’s effort is what led them to success. On the Abbotts College report card the effort ratings help parents and students to focus on the process and the level of effort that went into it, because even a student with good marks can get an average effort rating if the student is under-performing. You should reiterate the concept that talent is not going to keep on delivering results if it is not accompanied by the determination to work hard and grow," she said.

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A "mixed" or disappointing report card

If your child (and you!) is discouraged after a disappointing report, you should try to find some form of improvement or effort that you can praise to inspire them to continue developing. When improvement, even if it is just a baby step, is acknowledged, students can feel the work that they did put in, has been seen and validated.

Van Rensburg said it also helps students to understand that the goal of their learning is to make progress and that success can be relative.

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She said these positive comments can serve as a "soft frame" that can help your child to digest the "middle part" where you give constructive feedback on things they struggle with or need to work on. These are the things that have not been mastered "yet".

She added that by embracing the power of the word "YET" when you communicate with your child, you can help them understand that setbacks are reflection points that must be used to pause and strategise for future success.

"You should end the conversation on a positive note. In the process you are framing the challenges as an opportunity for growth, helping your child to embrace and tackle any obstacles he or she may face," van Rensburg said.

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