So you just found out that your kid has been hiding his bad grades from you all this while. Or maybe, you’ve realised that lately, he tidies up his room all by himself, lest you don’t stumble upon those red-inked test papers. What would you do?
Your immediate reaction would probably be to give him a piece of your mind. Then you’d take away his videogames and pile more assessment books on for him to complete. But is that necessarily the best thing to do?
Clearly, the problem here is twofold – that of his poor academic performance, and the more severe among the two – the habit of lying. Child psychologists say that some children adopt lying as a defense mechanism to please their parents or to avoid the fear of being rebuked for their mistakes1. As such, getting angry and scolding your child doesn’t solve the problem. Your goal here is to understand what is causing the child to lie in such a situation. Let’s start by asking a few important questions.
1. Why is your child performing poorly?
Take a moment and think about it – Is he doing well but for this one test? Are all his grades steadily slipping or is it only for a particular subject? This will help you understand why your child is lying and handle the situation in an appropriate manner.
2. Are you demanding a lot from your child?
If your child feels that you have high expectations of him and will criticise his performance, it’s very likely that he hid his poor grades to avoid displeasing you and to avoid humiliation.
Dealing with Problem #1: Poor Academic Performance
Ask What, Not Why
Kids, like adults, have their own world of problems. Instead of raining him with blame-questions like ‘Why are you lying to me?’, ‘Why are you performing so poorly?’ and ‘Why don’t you want to study?’, try sitting down with him to determine the root cause for his poor academic performance.
Ask him what problems he is facing academically. Is he afraid to ask questions in class when he doesn’t follow something? Is the teacher too fast for him? Is a bully bringing down his morale? Does he feel that he isn’t given enough attention in the classroom? What makes it hard for him to concentrate while studying?
Work With Your Child
It’s important to motivate your child and encourage him. If he has failed in just a few subjects, praise him on the ones that he has got good grades in. Look at his strengths – your child may be a much better writer than a mathematician, for example. It’s important that you help him grow his potential rather than trying to fix his weaknesses.
Talk to his Teachers
Initiate a meeting with his form teacher. Talking to his teacher will help you develop a better understanding of why he is performing poorly. She might give you insights that you would have overlooked – maybe he is very talkative in class or his attention span is very short.
Understanding the Importance of Grades
Ask your child what he dreams of becoming. Link that back to why studying hard is essential for him to realise that dream. Show him how sharing his grades with you will help you know the subjects he is good at and the ones he needs to work on.
Dealing with Problem #2: Lying
Let your child know that you are still very angry with him for lying. Ask him to choose a punishment for himself. If you think it doesn’t suffice, ask him to come up with a tougher one or give him some options to choose from. This teaches your child to understand the severity of his actions and take responsibility for them.
Trusting Your Child
Tell your child that you’ll believe him henceforth, although he did disappoint you this time. He will realise that you are putting faith in him and will do his best to live up to it.
Has your child ever hidden his/her poor grades or lied to you in other ways? How did you deal with it?
1. Quek, T. (2003). The Truth about a Child’s Compulsive Lying. Retrieved from http://www2.hawaii.edu/~jamess/lying3.htm