How To Respond When A Child Doesn't Do Well On A Test
Students and parents can both experience a wide range of emotions when a child receives a low test score. It's important to acknowledge your own feelings about your child's grade, including disappointment and frustration, but not to share those troubling feelings with your child. Your child is likely already feeling bad about themselves and needs your help to feel better.
Instead of telling your child how you feel about their test score, ask your child how they feel about the result. You may say something like, "What do you think about your grade?" "What was it like for you to get this grade on the test?" or "How do you think the test went?" It is important to listen to how your child feels about their test while putting your emotions aside. This helps your child begin to process their own feelings without worrying about helping you, their parent, feel better.
If your child says something along the lines of "The test was fine", "It's not that bad", or other statements dismissing their performance, it's important not to challenge them here. All children want to do well and these responses mean they are not ready to talk about their test. Take your child's hint that they do care, but need their own time to reflect or process it. Parents can say, "It's okay if you do not want to talk about it right now, but I am here when you're ready to think some more about this together." or "I hear you feel okay about how the test went but another part of you may be disappointed or upset. We can talk about all of your feelings together." Also, "I'll never be upset with you for what was difficult. Instead, we can look at how to help you with that."
If your child is open to talking, discuss why they think the test didn't go as they had hoped. Parents can ask, "Do you have any ideas about why you didn't get the score you were hoping for?" Perhaps they were tired because they went to bed too late, they weren't familiar with the material, or they had a hard time focusing. Help your child identify what didn't go well and let them know you are available to help them find solutions to these problems for the next test. Also, commend them on being able to talk to you about. This might sound like, "It's great you can talk to me about this so you can know more about what was going on and what can help you do your best."
Focus on your child's effort. When parents can focus on how hard a child tries and less on how they are graded, children are more likely to persevere when they face challenges and setbacks.