This Friday, 17.5 million students in pre-school or primary and secondary schools across Turkey will officially enter their winter break, leaving behind a semester of countless assignments, exams and stress. It will be a time to unwind and relax for many but also a time to reflect for those who have brought home unexpected grades.
If you receive a rather rotten report card, your first instinct as a parent might be to blame your child for not trying or working hard enough, but refrain at all costs and don't react with disappointment. It is important to look beyond just grades, and not exert pressure on your child to be "perfect."
What you say – and more importantly how you say it – matters. But how exactly should you be dealing with your child's report card? The head of Yeditepe University's Education Sciences Department, associate professor Yelkin Diker Coşkun, shares her tips on talking to kids in a way that fosters progress.
Coşkun says families shouldn't dwell on their children's grades too much nor act like they don't matter at all, and instead should find balance in their reactions and discussions.
Reminding that report cards are crucial tools in showing how the educational process has impacted the student's cognitive, affective (emotional) and psychomotor development, Coşkun said: "That's why report cards are seen as a guide in supporting academic development. In this sense, report cards can help students and their families make self-assessments, and, if necessary, make adjustments to their study habits with the students' consent."
'FAMILY ATTITUDE, TEACHER RELATIONS CRUCIAL'
Coşkun warned that report cards should only be seen as one of the many tools used to support student development.
"Report cards are a periodic assessment of the student and should never be seen as part of their personality. Assessing and labeling children's personalities according to their report cards are wrong. Learning is situational and is affected by family attitudes, the teacher, the classroom environment, the equipment used and many other factors," she said, adding that reports cards are actually the collective result of all of these factors.
'LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD'
Coşkun said report cards will and should be a topic of conversation within the family.
"It is important that family members share their opinions about the whole report card concept without hesitation, using language that is not hurtful with their children, but more importantly, that the children share their thoughts about it with their families as well. Your child should not be afraid to evaluate their own performance. You need to listen to their thoughts about their own report cards. You need to see which subjects are your child's strongest and weakest," she said.
Parents should clearly show that they do not see the report card as something that overshadows their personality or identity, she added.
Coşkun said parents should support their arguments and make clear that bad grades do not make the child a failure. Being calm and clear in the discussions goes a long way, she noted.
'MANY REASONS FOR BAD GRADES'
Stating that there are many reasons behind a "bad" report card, Coşkun said: "Focusing only on results without understanding these reasons means that the parent's own 'parenting report card' will never improve. Every parent who knows their child well knows that they should not outwardly express a very positive or negative attitude regarding their report card. Our attitudes toward our children should not be affected by exams, report cards, success or similar external factors."
"Accepting our children as they are and making them feel that we have positive emotions about them is the healthiest (approach). In such cases, it will be easier to help the child evaluate themselves and make them think about what sort of arrangements they can make to improve in the subjects they're bad or weak at," she said.
Coşkun also cautioned against punishing kids for bringing home bad report cards.
"Depriving them of the things they love as a form of punishment, exerting emotional pressure and subjecting them to similar situations will cause the student to develop negative attitudes toward the process of learning, and the report card will not achieve its intended purpose," she said.
Coşkun underscored that semester breaks are first and foremost for students to relax, and that children should be allowed to plan their own holiday programs and daily routines themselves.
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