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Bad Report Card

Communicate and Recover

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If you are expecting a bad grade, or if you’ve just found out you’re going to flunk a class, then it’s pretty likely that you’re facing a tough conversation with your parents.

It may be temping to delay the bad news as long as you can, but that is a bad idea. You have to address this head on and prepare your parents for a shock.

Don’t let your parents be surprised by bad news.

Procrastination just makes things worse in any situation, but it’s especially damaging in this situation. If your parents are surprised by a flunking grade, they’ll feel doubly disappointed.

If they have to learn at the last minute or discover the news through a teacher, they’ll feel like there is a lack of trust and communication on top of the academic problem at hand.

By telling them ahead of time, you’re letting them know that you don’t want to keep secrets from them.

Schedule a meeting.

It’s hard to talk to parents sometimes—we all know this. Right now, however, it’s time to bite the bullet and schedule a time to talk with your parents.

Pick a time, make some tea or pour some soft drinks, and call a meeting. This effort alone will let them know that you are taking this seriously.

So what are some other approaches you can use when you talk to your parents?

Acknowledge the big picture.

You parents will want to know that you understand the seriousness of bad grades. After all, high school is the doorway to adulthood, so your parents will want to know that you do understand what is at stake.

Understand that this is a time when you are laying the foundation for a successful future and communicate that view in your conversation with your parents.

Acknowledge your mistakes.

Remember that everybody makes mistakes (including parents). The good news is that you can learn from your mistakes. Before you speak with your parents, make an effort to understand what went wrong in the first place.

Take some time to figure out why the bad grade happened (and be honest about this).

Were you overloaded this year? Did you take on too much? Maybe you had a problem with priorities or time management. Make a real effort to get to the root of your problem, then think of ways to make the situation better.

Be prepared.

Write your conclusions and plans on a piece of paper and take it with you when you meet with your parents. Talk about your possible ideas.

Are you willing to go to summer school? Maybe you should drop sports next year if you have to take a make-up course next year? Think about the steps you can take and be ready to discuss them.

Your goal is to show your parents that you are willing to take ownership. Admit you screwed up or that you have a problem—if you did—and let your parents know that you have a plan to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

By taking ownership, you are showing a sign of growing up, and your parents will be happy to see it.

Be a grownup, not a child.

Even if you go in with a plan, you must be willing to receive other suggestions. Don’t go into the meeting with the attitude that you have all the answers.

As we grow into adults, we sometimes learn to push our parents’ buttons. If you really want to be a grownup, it’s time to stop pushing those buttons now. Don’t try to get into a fight with your parents to blur the topic and transfer the problem to them, for instance.

Another common trick that parents see through: don’t use drama to try to manipulate the situation. Don’t cry and exaggerate your guilt to generate some sympathy. Sound familiar?

We all do things like this as we test our boundaries. The point here is, it’s time to move on and learn.

Be prepared to receive news you don’t like. Your parents’ idea of a solution may be different from your own. Be flexible and cooperative.

You can recover from any situation if you are willing to learn and to make the necessary changes. Make a plan and follow it!

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