Doper Parents: How Much Pressure Do You Put On Your Kids To Have Good Grades

How much pressure do parents of this board put on their children to get good grades. Are you like some Asian parents [1] who will not accept anything below an A or do you just shrug when you see your kid has Algebra 1 in Senior year in high school. For the purposes of this thread, I speak of Doper parents who do not have disabled or handicapped children.

[1] I’m Asian, so I suppose I can use this joke

Not much, really. I may express my approval or disappointment, but they’re the ones that will have to live with the consequences either way, not me. Homework must be done and school must be attended- anything else and they’re pretty much on their own. Maybe I’m weird like that?

But wouldn’t you prefer, as a parent who (I hope at least) loves your kids for them to be successful?

Of course I want them to be successful. Not getting good grades doesn’t mean they won’t be successful, it just means that they’ll go to Pima Community College rather than the U of Arizona, and that they’ll have loans and workstudy rather than scholarships. I explain this to them, they make their choices. What else am I going to do, nag and beg them?

Of course I would prefer good grades, but it’s not the end all and be all. It’s much more important to raise independant critical thinkers that can write, speak multiple languages and a host of other things than being a straight A geek. Plus out here in the real world, I find most of the straight A types to be either total dorks or too smart by half.

My wife is an Asian mother from Shanghai. Whilst school kids there ranked highest in the world, the price thy pay in being memorizing little robots is nothing I want for my kids. In fact is a reason why we moved to the US.

My rule was C and above. I never had much problems with them doing less than that. My son had a couple of bad grades in middle school, but nothing major.

Also agree with Alice, some robo-kid with stellar grades isn’t necessarily my idea of “success”. I am reminded of my father, an engineering professor, who said that in his students he preferred “that good solid C student” over the “flash-in-the pan A student”.

If a kid can explain to me what’s going on in class, or reasonably attack a math or science problem, them I’m confident that he/she understands the material and is doing reasonably well, no matter what the grades reflect. Some people give grades too much emphasis and don’t pay attention to whether or not the kid actually learns something.

I wanted my kids to be inqisitive, mentally flexible, open to ideas, able to logically construct an argument, tolerant of others, polite, considerate, diplomatic - there are many other qualities you’d want in a person which aren’t measurable by grades.

With children, they make their choices, they have to deal with the consequences. They stay up too late? They’re tired the next day. They don’t get up on time? They’re late for school/have to find their own ride/have to walk/don’t get breakfast. They don’t use condoms? They have to pay for the abortion. Okay, okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture. One’s physical control over a child pretty much ends at 8 or 9, and then it’s consequences that take over. Even the dimmest child begins to figure that out at some point.


I plan on expecting good grades. She’s a smart child. There’s no reason she shouldn’t have good grades. Why would I accept C grades when she can do better?

I accept As and Bs. Cs are reasons for discussion of tutors and homework habits. Ds and below call for in depth discussions of classwork, concepts, etc., and punishment.

For us, it’s about expectations, setting goals and meeting and exceeding limits. Our kids are smart, and so far when they’ve done badly, it’s because they’re slacking off. My kids have one job, and that’s school. We expect to excel to the best of their ability, and if they’re blowing it off, they’re in trouble.

I will expect my adult children to work at their full ability, whether it’s at Burger King or with NASA, so I see no reason not to try to help them learn those lessons now.

I had a kid who nearly flunked out of high school. Graduated with the bare minimum. Might conceivably have been the direct opposite of a valedictorian.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t smart, because he was; it wasn’t that he didn’t know the stuff, because he did. It was because he didn’t do his homework and he didn’t go to class much, because that wasn’t what he cared about.

I did care, but since he didn’t, there was really nothing I could do to persuade him, and he didn’t want to go to college.

Now when I was younger the great thing in your job was if you could make your age, i.e., if you were 25 and making $25,000, you were doing okay. This kid was making 3x his age by the time he was 25. Doing something he loved. So he lucked out. It’s even possible he knew what he was doing all along.

My child is still embryonic, so I have a while to work this out, but as a teacher I’ve thought about it a lot and decided (shocker here): it depends on the child.

I am deeply ambivalent about grades. On one hand, I think they give kids a nice, concrete measure of their progress, and go a good job of sending the message that their are levels of achievement. For some kids, they are very motivational. On the other hand, I think kids (and parents) very easily start to mistake product for process, and see the grade as the last word on their progress: in my experience, kids are HAPPIER when they guess on a reading quiz and get a B than when they read the book and get an A. Somehow a series of lucky guesses validates THEM, shows that they have the “right stuff” or something. It’s really bizarre.

As far as pressure goes, there are many different types of kids and I think the best approach depends on the type you get:

When it comes to bad grades, you get (pronouns randomized: all these can be girls or boys):

The mess: This is the kid who really would like to get good grades, wants to get good grades, but can lose their homework between their desk and the teacher’s hand. This is the kid who forgets about science projects until 10 o’clock the night before, has a 5-inch layer of crumpled papers at the bottom of his backpack, hasn’t seen his math book since October, and (most importantly), when he runs into the inevitable problems these things cause, throws up his hands and gives up. This kid needs strategies and he needs them early and he needs them reinforced, Yelling at him is pointless because he’s trying as hard as he can, he just doesn’t know what to do. Letting this kid sink or swim is criminal because he’s going to need all the same strategies once he graduates, regardless of what he does with his life.

The over-committed. This kid can’t keep her grades up because she’s in EVERYTHING. Orchestra, band, musical, dance team, Green club, pep squad, 7 AP classes and has a part time job because she needs money for all her other hobbies that aren’t even connected to school. This one is hard. On one hand, it seems like there’s some sort of base level of commitment in taking a class, and if you aren’t willing to make the time for it, maybe you shouldn’t be in it at all, and at the end of the day, isn’t academic classwork more important than 900 activities and hobbies? But on the other hand, she’s usually really, really happy, learning all kinds of things, having the time of her life, and it sure is hard to take any of that away. And it’s hard to say if mastering BC calc by senior year is more important than being on the newspaper staff. For a kid like this, I certainly wouldn’t expect As, but I might draw the line at all Cs, or failing things. Those would probably be the signals that something needs to go.

The “doesn’t give a fuck”. These are the hardest. This is the kid that just doesn’t seem to care about anything academic. He’s failing honors courses so you put him in regular and he fails those too, because not doing anything is still not doing anything. He may or may not have some outside interest: maybe a sport, maybe girls, maybe video games, maybe marijuana. He’s immune to nagging, pleading, rational conversations, and while withholding privileges may work for a while (a little bit–a few Cs), they mostly lead to lies and fights and battles of will that are unsustainable. Sometimes there is an underlying cause you can winkle out: depression, anxiety, fear of failure, bad influences, a learning difference, but other times nothing like that comes to the surface. It really just seems to be that he doesn’t give a fuck what you or anyone else thinks. Honestly, with a kid like this, absent any “cause”, I think you have to let him live with the consequences of his grades and just try to keep the personal relationship healthy, happy and open. Hopefully he’ll be open to taking advice someday–and may even remember some of the things you tell him–but no power struggle is going to work.

The selective give a fuck: this kid’s report cards are all As and Fs. When she cares–either for the subject matter or for the teacher–she does well. When she doesn’t, she does nothing. With a kid like this, I think there is some responsibility to get her to care at least enough to be passing, but a kid like this tends to be someone you can reason with: she cares about SOMETHING, so you have a way in. With a kid like this, I’d probably insist on high Cs and Bs.

In terms of good grades, there are some kids who really thrive under pressure. They are capable of doing well and enjoy doing well and getting praised for it. If I had a kid like that, I’d probably pressure them to get straight As because I know that kid, and they are happier with that pressure. For that kid, having mom not CARE if you make straight As or not is actually harmful. There are other kids who put a lot of pressure on themselves but need mom to back off and offer the unconditional approval they don’t get from themselves.

A final note: One thing I think I will be militant about is cheating. I really want to raise a kid that stands by what they do. Otherwise, you get that whole process/product problem: kids don’t realize they don’t learn when they cheat, and no amount of repeating it to them will convince them; they might agree in theory, but deep down inside, they think that if they’ve completed the assignment (even if it was copied), they’ve accomplished the task and deserve the grade. This can really hamper an education, and I’d like to avoid it in my own child however much I can.

My kids aren’t old enough to be getting grades yet, but when they are I plan to do it like my parents did: it’s not the grades that matter, it’s the effort you put into it. Slacked off and got a B? Unacceptable. Worked your ass off and still only got a C? Good for you!!

I have an adult child, who has always had problems with dyslexia.

I always expected her to do her best in school. When she wasn’t learning how to read, I got help for her (first taking her to a shrink, to get tested, and then to a tutor). When she was having problems in high school English, my husband and I had a couple of conferences with the teacher. It turns out that she wasn’t grasping some of the fundamentals, and was too shy to ask. The teacher helped her understand that it was OK to ask for extra help, and we worked this out. When she was getting a bad grade in frosh science, again, we met with the teacher…turns out that she wasn’t handing in her homework. She was capable of it, but just didn’t feel like doing it. She had certain privileges revoked.

I don’t think that a high schooler is really mature enough to decide how much effort s/he’ll put into schooling. I didn’t constantly nag or beg, but if I thought that she could be doing much better, well, I’m the parent. I did allow her to make her own choices in things like electives, and taking JROTC instead of PE.

She’s taught herself how to speak, read, and write in Japanese (kanji and romanji), and now she’s learning Chinese (I don’t remember whether she’s learning Mandarin or Cantonese). She’s doing very well, has a great job, she’s a brown belt in taekwondoe, and generally is enjoying life.

Kids have to learn how to apply themselves, it doesn’t come naturally to most people. Getting good grades involves learning how to stick to a task, even if it’s boring, and this is good training for later life, it’s not the end goal.

In my state a high school GPA of 3.5 and a decent ACT score earns a $1,600 per semester scholarship. Of course other scholarships are also available. We insist that our 15yo girl maintains at least a 3.5. Anything less will result in dramatic loss of privileges.

I like Manda Jo’s “types of kids”. I think there’s one more:

The “You-Can’t-Make-Me!”: My son looks like a hybrid of a mess and a don’t-give-a-fuck, and always has. In fact, he’s a little more than that - if he really didn’t give a fuck, he wouldn’t give a fuck if he *did *pass, but he actively sabotages himself to do poorly if he feels like someone’s trying to control him. When in the younger grades, we’d (<—see, that right there is a problem. “We” don’t do homework, “students” do homework!) do his homework, I’d watch him put it in his schoolbag, make sure he had the schoolbag in the morning, and he’d still not turn in the homework. :smack: He’d done it, he had it, but he sabotaged himself by not turning it in. For this kid, it was all about power and control. I was trying to control him, and he was demonstrating that I couldn’t. For this kind of kid, really the only answer is to back off almost 100%. Once I gave him total control, stopped all the nagging and the “helping”, he did much better.

My daughter’s only 6, so it’s hard to tell what style will best suit her. So far, we’ve had only a couple of nights where she hasn’t wanted to do her homework and has outright refused. When she does that, I shrug, and I say, “Okay, but it’s homework time. That means you either need to do your homework, or think about your homework. And maybe you should also think about what you’re going to tell Mrs. Jones when you don’t have your homework tomorrow. What’s your choice?” So far, she’s always chosen to do her homework instead of tell her teacher why she doesn’t have it! :smiley:

Generally speaking, I’m concerned if my kids are getting D’s and F’s. But “concerned” doesn’t mean “pressure them” or “punish them”. Grades are ultimately between the kid and the teacher, and that’s where they belong. My concern is much more about making sure the kid is properly placed, making sure they have the time and tools to do their work, and making sure the teacher is clearly communicating what the work is and when it’s due. If all of that is true, then I can offer to help with the homework, I can offer some ideas for more effective study or test taking strategies, I can suggest the kid research vocational colleges and trade schools if the grades aren’t going to get them into university, but if the kid fails, the kid *deserved *to fail.

In may be true, grades indicate little but that is what most universities and colleges look at.

“Most”, perhaps. But not all, and not all types. If your child is interested in a field where the name of the alma mater is highly key to getting a job - molecular engineering, perhaps - then where they go *is *pretty important, and they’ll need the grades required at their institution of choice. For most of us, however, state schools are fine, and their GPA requirements really aren’t all that strict. For others, a traditional college or university isn’t a good fit anyhow, and we’d be better to encourage those kids in the direction of vocational colleges, trade-schools, apprenticeship programs and the like. And in between, there are community colleges, which can help the academically or financially challenged to get where they need to be without good grades in high school.

None whatsoever but it was a terrible mistake. If I had known then what I know now I would have encouraged them to work much harder.

Jeez, where was this feel-good parenting when I was growing up? My parents were the obnoxious, grade-obsessed, grounding for not getting good grades type. I guess it worked. I got good grades and went to a good university, but I still hate my job, so meh.

It’s the see-saw of parenting. My mother was so grade obsessed I would hide my report cards because they had B’s on them. Y’know, the kind of parent who couldn’t congratulate me for a 97% on a test because “what about the other 3%?” It made me literally sick with ulcers and depression and I felt that her love for me was very much conditional on my academic achievement. I felt so much pressure to succeed academically at the expense of all else that I determined never to do that to my children. (Of course, “never” didn’t really happen, as there were time periods when I was an overbearing harpy, but once I took a closer look and a step back, I remembered what I had resolved and made that reality.)

I’m sure my kids will be grade obsessed parents in their turn. We try so hard not to make the same mistakes our parents do that we usually end up making the same mistakes our grandparents made! :smiley: