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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Sumners

How to Celebrate Your Kid's Growth, Not Grades

Most parents & caregivers we work with agree that good grades are not their ultimate goal. When we ask them what they want for their child, they share that they want:

  • overall happiness

  • a love of learning

  • academic confidence

  • self-advocacy skills

  • exploration of their passions

  • persistence

  • growth

  • ability to face academic challenges with a knowledge that they can do this!

Grades aren't a good measure of these outcomes -- but they are often the primary form of communication about how a child is doing at school.

To be clear, we aren't saying grades aren't important. They can be good sources of information and point out potential problems or strengths. But they certainly aren't the whole picture, and they're not very good at capturing the kinds of changes Empower parents are most looking for.

Grades are also a lagging indicator, so if a kid is working towards a goal, they need some other way of measuring progress. A student who studies daily for math may not see that pay off in their grade for 8 weeks or more, depending on where we are in the school year.

But a student who studies daily for math will quickly see changes in their academic confidence, persistence, and ability to face challenges. Celebrating those signs of progress can help kids continue their great new habits even if their grade isn't showing their efforts yet.

It can also help them focus on what's truly important: learning math, not just getting a good grade in math.

One of our favorite tools for helping kids & their families focus on these important indicators of success?

The Empower Progress Report!

How to Begin the Conversation

We use these prompts to get the conversation started with our student:

"At the beginning of the school year, I was..."

"Now, I ..."

Asking them to reflect back on who they were at the beginning of the year really helps them to see the growth they've made. They may mention that they were disorganized, unsure of how to study, or overwhelmed. Now, they may feel organized, equipped with study tools that work for them, and more peaceful about school.

This isn't to say kids will have entirely reached their goals or be a completely different person. Growth isn't linear. However, even being able to say they feel more organized or have gained some new study tools is growth worth celebrating!

Talking About Executive Functioning

Next, we ask students to give some specific examples or evidence of how they've grown this year.

They may mention things like "I only had 1 late assignment per week this year whereas last year I had 5 per week" or "I learned how to organize my week so that I could work on projects a little bit at a time."

Once they're done, we point out what executive functioning skill they are demonstrating through that example. "I agree, you've done a great job with getting your assignments turned in; that means you've really grown in planning, task initiation, and time management."

We find that kids feel extra proud of their accomplishments once they know there's an official name and skill to match with it. They're not just improving in remembering what they want to talk about in our sessions; they're improving their working memory. They're not just improving in their ability to share with us how they faced a challenge; they're improving their self-monitoring.

(For more info about EF skills, be sure to check out our blog post on these!)

Reflecting & Keeping It Going

Once students have reflected on all there is to celebrate, it's great to reflect on how they got there and where they're headed next.

We do this by asking them about one habit that helped them reach those outcomes and one new habit they'd like to try to keep them going toward their goals.

Your Feedback & Voice

Just as we benefit from other people's perspectives, your child will benefit from hearing from you about the changes you've noticed. Knowing that they have made you feel proud will help them to feel truly amazing!

We like to point out the growth we've seen in our students and list out all the ways we have seen them be successful.

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