Teach Your Child How to Deal With a Bad Grade

how to deal with a bad grade

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best things they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The key to teaching your child how to deal with a bad grade lies in promoting a growth mindset. Our belief systems about our own abilities and potential fuel our behavior and predict our successes.

How you respond to your child’s successes and failures impacts your child’s mindset (both now and in the future).

What does this mean? How exactly do you teach your child how to deal with a bad grade (or two)?

Before You Can Teach Your Child How to Deal With a Bad Grade, You Must First Change Your Own Attitude Toward Failure.

Before you can change your child’s attitude toward failure, you must first change your own.

It all starts with mindset.

If you haven’t read Carol S. Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I suggest you start there. In her groundbreaking book, Dweck differentiates between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

A fixed mindset is a belief that our talents are unique gifts or fixed traits. Here, intelligence is set in stone at birth. A growth mindset is a belief that intelligence can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. Individuals who have a growth mindset capitalize on setbacks.

growth mindset versus fixed mindset

Once you adjust your attitude toward failure, you can teach your child how to deal with a bad grade or report card. After all, a lot of growth comes from failing (and failing often).

A growth mindset is more than just a buzzword. It’s a lifestyle!

Besides, failure itself isn’t inherently bad.

Failure Itself Isn’t Bad; It’s What Comes After That Matters.

For decades, kids have participated in a rat race to scurry to the top of the GPA ladder. Competition has gotten so fierce that I have witnessed my own children panic and break down over a bad quiz or test grade. Kids are more stressed and anxious than ever before.

What if we shift how we view bad grades and take them as an opportunity to challenge our children and improve their mindset? After all, our children attend school to learn. Learning isn’t linear.

When my eldest started middle school, the principal instructed all parents to get their hands on a copy of Dweck’s book. He suggested we encourage a growth mindset for our kids. The concept was new to me. With a growth mindset, teaching your child how to deal with a bad grade becomes straightforward. You don’t focus on the product; you focus on the process.

Since then, I’ve witnessed several impressive changes within the school, all promoting a positive view of failure and opportunities to practice a growth mindset.

For one, in our school district, many teachers allow retakes of exams. The kids can’t quite achieve a perfect grade if they opt for a retake, but the option to study more, learn from their mistakes, and try again is there. Teachers perform homework checks instead of giving homework grades. Some are doing away with midterms and finals for good. If we want to promote real learning, then why are we so focused on grades?

Since I adopted this approach to tests and grades, I noticed my children were less anxious and more productive. And get this…their grades improved!

Failure itself isn’t bad. It’s what comes after that is important!

Failing to Succeed: Five Examples of Highly Successful People Who Failed First

You’re familiar with Oprah Winfrey, right? A producer fired her from one of her first TV jobs because he felt she was “unfit for television.” Now she owns her own production company. She received an Academy Award nomination and hosted the highest-rated television show of its kind in history.

When a teacher told Thomas Edison that he was too stupid to learn anything, did that affect his curiosity and hard work? No! He went on to hold over 1000 patents.

We’ve all heard the stories about Einstein. He wasn’t able to read until he was 7. Yet he went on to win the Nobel Prize and altered the world’s approach to physics. I wonder if Einstein’s parents ever worried about teaching their son how to deal with a bad grade?

growth mindset examples

The Wright Brothers put in countless hours to create prototypes of airplanes. Many of them failed, didn’t work, and crashed. But those crashes led to better creations! The Wright Brothers changed the way we travel.

Believe it or not, Walt Disney was fired from his job at the Kansas City Star for “lacking imagination.” He went on to become the man who reinvented American childhood with his creativity and genius.

So, what should you do when your child gets a bad grade?

Teach Your Child How To Deal With a Bad Grade

First of all, take a deep breath. A bad grade won’t doom your child forever. Your actions and reactions have the ability to empower and strengthen your child.

1. Don’t blame or get angry with your child.

The worst thing you can do is get angry. Remember, your mindset affects your child’s mindset. You are tethered to one another (for now). You can either encourage your child to choose challenges and increase achievement or look for an easy way out. At the same time, don’t play the blame game. It lowers self-esteem and teaches your child to look to an outside source to blame for their missteps and failures.

how to deal with a bad grade

2. Praise effort and point out what went well.

If you know for a fact your child studied for the exam, acknowledge their hard work. Praise them for giving it their best shot. Use the 2:1 Rule: For every criticism, point out two positives. When you recognize their effort, they’ll be more likely to challenge themselves in the future.

3. Ask your child to go over the test with you.

Sit down with your child, and ask them to talk you through the test. Not only will it help you identify your child’s learning gaps, but it reinforces some of the concepts your child missed or didn’t quite grasp. If you’re looking at a math test, do some extra practice problems together. Discuss with your child how they can study more effectively next time.

4. Offer study support.

It could be that your child needs an extra boost in an area of learning or a different approach to studying. Once you identify what type of learner your child is, you can completely change the way your child studies. Offer your time and support. Sit down with your child and study with them. They’ll carry these study habits with them to university!

5. If bad grades become a pattern, reach out to your child’s teacher or guidance counselor.

Sometimes bad grades become a pattern. Perhaps your child struggles in a particular subject and shuts down. In this case, it is helpful to contact your child’s teacher or guidance counselor. They may be able to offer resources you haven’t thought of on your own. Encourage your middle and high schoolers to attend any extra study sessions in school.

6. Be a positive role model.

This one speaks for itself! When your child feels distraught, anxious, or stressed about their academic performance, talk about a time when you missed the mark but rebounded.

Encourage your child to use positive affirmations like:

  • I will never give up.
  • Today I choose to be positive.
  • My confidence grows when I step outside my comfort zone.
  • I will embrace challenges.
  • Every day is a fresh start.

Nurture an environment of positivity. For instance, you can hang a positive affirmation poster in your child’s study space, or you can keep growth mindset affirmation cards nearby to share.

how to deal with a bad grade

Resources to Encourage a Growth Mindset for Kids

If your child struggles with self-confidence consider one of the following workbooks or activity books:

Growth Mindset Activities for Kids. This is a fun and engaging activity book that can help your child train their growing brain and develop problem-solving skills through practice and repetition. They’ll discover how to nurture an awesome “can-do” attitude and celebrate mistakes as a path to success.

Growth Mindset Workbook for Kids. A growth mindset can help you develop your abilities to tackle just about anything. Growth Mindset Workbook for Kids is a fun and engaging activity book, for ages 8 to 12, that can help you train your brain and develop creative problem-solving skills through practice and perseverance. You’ll learn how to foster a “can-do” attitude and celebrate your mistakes as a path to ultimate success.

The Girls’ Guide To Growth Mindset. Get ready to unleash your learning power and potential! The Girls’ Guide to Growth Mindset is an interactive book for girls―with keys to unlock new adventures, skills, and a world of exploration. In these pages, you’ll nurture a can-do attitude and celebrate mistakes as a formula for growing bigger brains. With guided exercises to think about, see, and do, The Girls’ Guide to Growth Mindset is a special place for you to get to know the wonderful you.

Learn Grow Succeed! A Kids Growth Mindset Journal. This inspirational journal helps kids learn how to reach their full potential through thought-provoking prompts that help them develop a growth mindset. Over the course of writing in this diary, kids will discover how to stop thinking “I can’t do it” and start thinking “I can learn how!”


How should you react to a bad grade or report card? And how do you teach your child how to deal with a bad grade?

  • Don’t blame or get angry with your child.
  • Praise hard work and point out what went well.
  • Ask your child to go over their test with you.
  • Offer study support.
  • If you see a pattern, reach out to a teacher or guidance counselor.
  • Be a positive role model.
  • Foster a growth mindset.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Kelli

    Excellent post and such an important message for everyone! It sounds like your kids are at an awesome school! I wish that I had these messages in my education.

  2. Kimberlie

    As a veteran teacher, I applaud the suggestions shared in this post for handling a bad test result. Too often parents do not realize the pressure children face to be perfect at all times and these suggestions will help to remove that pressure in a healthy way.

  3. Amanda Jean

    This is really good insight for my husband and I for our girls. Thank you for sharing

  4. Smelly Socks and Garden Peas

    So far my 9yr old has only had great grades. He dropped 3 marks out of 150 on his age 7 tests and 100% last week on his baseline assessment. I dread how he would react to a bad score, I know I would be calm and encouraging so long as he tried his best. And if he didn’t we’d have to figure it out.

  5. Jen Dodrill

    I’m so glad you brought this up. I was rewarded for As as a child with $1/per A. My dad now says he wishes they hadn’t done that. I know I’ve shown my kids more excitement for good grades when I really, really wish I’d gone the growth mindset route instead. I recently learned about it and it makes so much sense! I can only go forward, right?!!

    • jjarvy01@gmail.com

      Absolutely! As a mother, I consider myself to be a work in progress. When I find myself growing concerned over slippage in my kids’ grades, I try to apply some of the strategies I mentioned in the post. Growth mindset is a fairly new concept. Thank you for reading!

  6. Roxanne Ferber

    I have never stressed over grades for my kids because it does not represent all of their talents and passions. My kids are in the 4th grade and have always had straight A’s, I think because they want to do the work rather than me pushing them to do the work.

    • jjarvy01@gmail.com

      I noticed that when I stopped nagging my children over grades, their grades (and stress levels) improved dramatically! And you said it best…grades do not represent all of their talents and passions!

  7. Amber

    This topic is so important. I grew up with friends who were punished for grades that fell below a B. Never once did the parents try to figure out what the problem might be or help. Thank you so much for bringing this to attention.

    • jjarvy01@gmail.com

      That makes me sad to hear. Our kids feel so much pressure to succeed and get As when what we really ought to be focusing on is the actual learning process. Thank you for reading!