Receiving lower than expected exam results can feel shocking or devastating for your child. It is important for parents to approach disappointing exam results positively to help their child improve.
Kids can fail exams for a variety of reasons.
Common reasons may include:
Lack of interest in the material
Distraction when studying
Poor time management and procrastination
Lack of confidence or overconfidence
There could also be underlying reasons a student is not motivated at school over a prolonged period. This may include underlying learning disabilities such as autism or dyslexia or mental health conditions including ADHD, anxiety, depression or OCD.
A child who has a fixed mindset will have the belief that a poor grade on an exam or assessment suggests that they cannot do well in the respective subject and is more likely to give up and see failure as something irreversible and inevitable for them.
Parents can take the following steps to boost confidence and approach disappointing exam results positively:
Stanford Psychologist, Carol Dweck’s research demonstrated praising ‘process not outcome’ is a key to developing a growth mindset.
Praising your child for their academic efforts is just as important as praising them for their results.Recognising your child’s effort will motivate and encourage them for future exams, assessments or homework.
Your child will learn the connection between the amount of effort they put in and the results they achieve.
Praising your child’s effort can look like praising their concentration, self-correction or study techniques.
Eden believes focusing on your child’s results may lead to a fear of failure and task avoidance.
Creating good study conditions at home may help your child with distractions and battling exam stress.
Create a dedicated study space that is quiet, organised and away from distractions.
You may wish to set boundaries with your child about the use of technology or phones in their study space.
Encourage your child to seek help from teachers or wellbeing staff following their exam results.
Praising your child for seeking feedback from staff will help them improve their grades.
It also helps your child build a good relationship with their teacher and feel more comfortable to ask for help before the next assessment.
If your child is struggling with their organisation you may wish to set up a calendar or study plan.
Make sure to write in assessment or homework due-dates
Encourage them to make a to-do list where they can mark off each task
Help them create a study timetable which also schedules in wellbeing activities
A popular study technique is to note the mistakes from the last exam and re-do those questions everyday until they are completely mastered.
For example, if your child gets a complex maths question wrong, have them write down the question in a separate note book and re-attempt it until they have learnt the correct working out.
Make sure your child asks teachers for further feedback until the next assessment so they are prepared. ’
It’s not the end of the world if your child has one disappointing result.
It’s important to help your child (and yourself) put these results into perspective. Does this one exam result mean my child will not succeed in life? Of course not, in fact failure is more likely to help your child succeed so long as they focus on what they have learnt in the process- what they did well and what they can improve on.
Eden Foster, College Psychologist, St Aloysius College, Melbourne
Help build their self-esteem and reward them for any efforts leading up to the next exam.
Your child is likely already disappointed in themselves. Try to show support and encourage a growth mindset.
Remind your child although they can’t change what happened, they can work towards learning from their mistakes.
Child Psychologist from Sydney Child Psychology Services, Nidhi Dev advises that comparison puts excess pressure on kids.
Your child’s learning is unique and should be approached as such.
Comparing your child and putting them higher than other students can also be destructive. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset research has shown that students are more likely to see their ability as ‘fixed’ when they see themselves as the top achiever.
In a fixed mindset, a minor setback may be perceived as a complete failure.
Reward their efforts
Encourage them to learn from their feedback
Remind them it is possible to achieve a different outcome in the future
Help them have an organised study space free from distractions
Make sure you are focusing on them, and not comparing them to others.