Q: Your kid comes home with his or her first F. How do you talk to your child without making him or her feel like a failure?


A: The first thing you should do is take a step back and reflect before responding. Know that this grade is not an evaluation of your parenting, your child or even the teacher.

Engage in a conversation with your child. Some might be able to explain what went wrong, while others can’t. And some will blame themselves, and others will try to attribute blame elsewhere by saying things like, “The teacher didn’t explain the material.”

The most important thing is to maintain a respectful tone. If you show outrage, your child will become defensive.

Say, “You always take good care of business. What do you think led to this?” Did it come from not paying attention or not participating? Or was the material truly confusing to the child?

Don’t immediately start calling for the best tutor in town. One F should not stand for “future destroyed.”

WENDY MOGEL, author of “Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say it, and When to Listen”


A: Check how your child is feeling, and empathize. Say, “I’m so sorry to hear this, honey,” and make it very clear that his or her feelings about the grade matter most. Your job is to help your child see that he or she is not the grade.

Likely, your child feels awful, so don’t add to the guilt. Ask, “Is this something I could have helped you with? Was there a reason you didn’t come to me?” Convey to your child that you’re safe, nonjudgmental and able to help.

See this as an opportunity to teach your child how to deal with failure. This can be a time to instill strategies and optimism for moving forward after a disappointment.

CATHERINE STEINER-ADAIR, school consultant and clinical psychologist