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Parent/Teacher Conferences - Discussing The Feedback With Your Child
Tips from Teachers
Insights and Ideas from Smart Love teachers and tutors on how to help your children have a successful school year!
Parent-teacher conferences are an opportunity for parents to gain insight into how their child is doing in school and to communicate with their child's teacher about what additional supports their child might need to reach their full potential. Some parents and children may look forward to these conferences and feel confident that positive feedback will be shared. Others may feel nervous about the information the teacher will present. A wide range of feelings is to be expected for both parents and children. When children express nervous or anxious feelings around a parent speaking with their teacher, parents can welcome these feelings and let their child know that they will still love them as they always have no matter what feedback they receive from the teacher. Parents should also be aware of how they themselves are feeling going into the conference and address any difficult emotions like worry or frustration with another trusted adult, such as a friend or spouse, instead of sharing them with their child.
If you learn that your child is in need of help with school, whether acadmically, behaviorly, or socially try to find a time where you can have a conversation with your child to discuss what you have learned. It could sound something like, "I spoke with Mrs. Smith today and she shared that you are having a hard time completing your class work. Can you share what's going on?" You might learn that there is a simple reason, like they are having a hard time hearing the teacher from sitting all the way in the back, or another student is distracting them and it's hard for them to pay attention. Ask open ended questions like "Can you tell me more?" and validate their experience, like "That must be frustrating!"
If your child communicates that the content is "too hard" or "I'm bad at math", avoid comments that contradict what your child is saying like "You're not bad at math" or "Don't say that!" Instead reflect what you are hearing, "It sounds like you feel like math is challenging right now. I can hear you're frustrated. Can you tell me more about what is going on?" Then listen to them completely and validate their experiences. When it sounds like they have finished telling you about math class, work with your child to come up with possible solutions. It could sound like, "I wonder what we could do to try and address these problems? Do you have any ideas?" If your child is having a hard time thinking of ideas, it's okay to offer yours and discuss with them what feels best. It could sound something, "Do you think this idea sounds like it could help?"
Avoid punishments or bribes as both of these options have unintended messages to children. Bribes take the focus off of learning and communicate that school is not fun or interesting so much so that a prize is necessary to get through it. Punishments communicate that children are "bad" and can cause them to feel angry or resentful. Both bribes and punishments are coercive and can damage a child's motivation to do better.
Instead, it's helpful for children to feel that parents are on their side and want to help them improve. For example, a child may need to spend less time on video games and more time on their school work, but how parents frame the conversation is important. It could sound something like, "Mrs. Smith said that you haven't been turning in your math homework. I wonder what we could do to try and find more time for homework?" Listen and consider all of their ideas, even if you know they won't work. Communicate that you understand what is important to your child when you offer your ideas on how to address the problem. Something like, "I know how much you enjoy playing Minecraft, and I agree, it is a fun game. We also need to make sure that we get our work done. I wonder if we can structure your afternoon so that you have enough time to finish your work, but also time to game?" If your child is a part of the conversation and feels heard, they will be more likely to try the new ideas to get their work done.
While some grades can have lasting consequences, it is helpful for parents to take the long-term view when talking to their child about how they're doing in school. Children nowadays are under an immense amount of pressure to perform in school. This pressure can often inhibit a child's ability to reach their full potential. When parents are able to alleviate some of these pressures by putting things into perspective for their children, it helps children to feel better about themselves and improves their resilience. When parents prioritize the relationship with their child and their child's love of learning rather than individual grades, they set their children up for greater success and happiness in the future.
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