Your eighth-grader has never gotten an A. Ever. Is it OK to be OK with this?
Parent advice, from staff contributors:
• Yep. If your kid is applying himself, working hard, doing the assignments and still doesn't score an A, maybe it's not to be. Offer your help, maybe get some tutoring. If that helps get him an A, great. But if it doesn't, don't convey the idea that your kid is a failure. A hard-working, earnest B or C student deserves that hug.
• The first thing I'd wonder is whether A grades are difficult to come by at your child's school. If the course work is challenging and A grades are given only for truly excellent results, then I wouldn't sweat a B grade, though I'd want to confer with the child's teachers as to whether he/she is working hard enough.
• Fair or unfair, college admissions are driven by grades, and a high-school transcript devoid of A grades will substantially limit your child's options. So this year, the last year in which your child's grades won't follow him/her around, I'd investigate to make sure the child is doing his/her best, and I'd consider tutoring to make sure he/she is on an even footing with the other kids when high school starts.
"We're so automatically focused on grades to take the temperature of a child's whole character and whole future," says clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel, author of "The Blessing of a B Minus."
"There's so much more to look at."
Academically, Mogel says, pay attention to the teachers' comments.
"If they're saying things like, 'She's spending most of her time chatting with her neighbors,' that's one thing," she says. "Or maybe it's, 'I see him maturing and really applying himself, and he's brought his algebra up to a B.' "
Keep an eye on homework time, she adds. "Is he playing 'World of Warcraft' too much? Is she sending Snapchats all night?"
Grades are just one sign of whether he is applying himself and grasping the material. Take stock of his nonacademic pursuits as well, Mogel says. "Is he stretching himself and deriving satisfaction from any area of his life? Is he an artist? An athlete? How does he treat his grandparents? The neighbors? What does the coach say?"
Take a look at your child's friends.
"Are they devoted kids who are interested in their futures and respectful to adults?" Mogel asks. "We've narrowed down our thinking about individual children so much that we use grades to measure them, ourselves and whether the Earth will continue to rotate on its axis."
That said, performing at school is an eighth-grader's primary job.
"During the school year, their task is to do their schoolwork and behave properly and follow the school rules and enjoy extracurriculars," Mogel says. "If they're not doing their work, they're slacking off on their job.
"Eighth grade is already somewhat serious and predictive," she adds. "But in moderation. We've become so crazy about achievement that we're stealing their childhoods from them."