As adults it is often clear what needs to change when we’ve done poorly on a project or work assignment. It’s easier for us to discern what caused us to do well too. This is usually not the case with children. Most children do not know the skills of self-reflection and goal setting. When questioned about a poor grade, they often respond with “I will try harder.” “It wasn’t my fault.” or “The teacher doesn’t like me.” They have difficulty identifying their strengths and weakness too. Repeating positive actions and changing negative habits in school becomes difficult. Thus, children are not realizing their full potential.
This time of year marks the end of the first semester grading period in many school districts. It’s the perfect time to help your child practice self-reflection and goal setting. First, have your child be responsible for organizing his end of semester grades including all assignments in each class either by asking the teacher or from the school district’s electronic grade system. Ask your child to highlight the assignments, quizzes, tests, and projects he is most proud of in one color and least proud of in another color. This will help him to truly see where he excelled and fell short. Next, have your child answer these questions for each class.
1. What did I do well this semester?
2. Where did I fall short and need to improve?
3. What is my goal for next semester in regarding a target grade in each class? What actions are necessary for successfully meeting my goal?
Children will typically have very short answers! The parent’s job is to help determine what specific actions are needed to meet the stated goals. Ask open ended questions, “Why?” or “How?” until the child comes up with repeatable actions that will assist him in attaining his goal. Here’s a sample conversation.
PARENT: Where did you fall short this semester?
PARENT: Why did you not do very well on the tests?
CHILD: I did not study enough.
PARENT: How do you think you can improve your test grades?
CHILD: Study more.
PARENT: What does that mean? How will you study more?
CHILD: I think I should study for more than one day before the test. I get help from my teacher if I have questions.
Repeating positive actions and changing negative habits help children reach their goals. Keep the goals your child has set handy as a reference throughout the next semester. In setting personal goals and determining how to achieve those goals, your child will be encouraged to do his best.