How to Tell Your Parents If You Got a Bad Grade
Report card day. If you are anything like I was growing up, this is the most dreaded day of the whole semester. If you're reading this, you are most likely in a position where you wish you could just crumple up your grades, throw them away, and pretend like the whole semester never happened.
Don't worry! You can get through this! And one day this will be a distant (maybe even forgotten) memory.
But for now, here is practical and realistic advice from a mom on how you can face your parents.
1. Be Honest
Okay, this is probably the very last thing you want to do but believe me, honesty is actually the best option for you right now.
Take some time and think about the alternative: If you lie or ignore the situation, how mad do you think your parents will be when they eventually do find out on their own—or worse—when they hear it from your teachers? Believe me, it'll be way worse than if you had told them the truth from the start!
Being upfront and honest gives you the opportunity to share your side of the story and perhaps even diffuse your parents' anger. It also gives you the chance to show your parents that you can take responsibility for your actions.
Honesty is always the best policy in my household. As a parent, I am much less likely to dish out a harsh punishment if my kids are honest about the mistakes they have made.
2. Invite Your Parents to an "Adult Conversation"
Start your conversation with your parents by telling them that you need to talk to them.
- Ask them to please be patient and let you speak (I cannot promise that they actually will, but do your best to stay calm and collected, this may encourage them to do the same). Even if you don't think they will be patient, ask them anyway. This will force your parents to be more mindful of their own emotions and reactions to what you have to say. Also, asking them from the start to be understanding helps them brace for the impact of what you are about to say.
- Be clear and concise and get straight to the point. Take responsibility right from the start. "I didn't do well on my report card this term, but let me explain."
- Use a grown-up voice. Don't make too many excuses, keep your voice from whining, stay as matter-of-fact as possible. In other words, put on your best "grown-up" tone of voice. "I had a very hard time understanding what was taught in math class." "I did very poorly on several essays I had to write for English."
- Offer solutions you've thought of to improve next time around. Your parents may be surprised by your initiative. "I'm sure if I pay closer attention and take better notes in class I can do better next time." "I really need to make sure I understand what I'm reading." "I will speak up more in class." "I will ask questions when I don't understand."
- Offer suggestions on how your parents could help you improve. This is important because it tells your parents that you still need their guidance. "I would really appreciate it if you could help me with my homework." "Could you help me study for exams?" "Could you help me find a tutor?"
- Suggesting fair punishments will show your parents that you know actions have consequences and you are willing to accept yours. "I am going to give up an hour of video games every day and use that time to study until my grades have improved."
- Explain the source of the problem. If you are really having a difficult time at school, academically or socially, now is the time to tell your parents! Your parents want to help you, they want you to be happy. If you are having a hard time, you don't have to deal with it alone! Open up and talk to your parents! Help them understand what you're going through. "Even though I try, I still have a very hard time following what's going on in class and I'm not sure what I can do to make it better." "There are people in my class who make it very hard for me to focus and I don't know how to approach them." "I am really not happy at school because......"
If you sit down and have a good discussion with your parents about your grades, your parents may be so impressed by your maturity they may not even get upset. (Again, no promises, but it's worth a try.)
3. Bring in a Mediator
If you are afraid to face your parents alone, bring in an adult mediator whom you know understands you and will support you when you talk to your parents. This could be your aunt or uncle, grandparents, a favorite teacher, or even a family friend. I would recommend it be someone who is a peer to your parent so the power dynamic is equal. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend an older sibling or cousin, friend, or anyone your parents have power over because then both of you may get it.
Your mediator should be a level-headed person that doesn't get riled up too easily. The purpose of the mediator is to help you keep your parents calm so that you can actually plead your case and have a real conversation with them.
It can be scary to face your parents alone. For some, it may feel like entering the den of a fire-breathing dragon. Let your mediator be your water dragon to douse the flames.
What Bad Grades Mean (and Do NOT Mean)
If you are feeling down about your scores, try not to beat yourself up. Obviously, if you have not been doing what you know you should, then there is room for improvement. But if you have been trying and you don't understand why you aren't getting any better, don't believe that you are stupid or incapable of being a good student.
I was a terrible student all throughout middle and high school. This was due mostly to me not applying myself, but also because I was really depressed and was ashamed to talk about it with my mom. When I finally opened up to her, I learned that my mother was my ally, she always had been. She would do anything to help me.
In college I developed better work and study habits. I eventually graduated from college, cum laude (with honors) in Fine Arts, at the top of my department. Have faith in yourself! You CAN succeed!
What If You Are Afraid to Tell Your Parents About Your Report Card?
If you are afraid to tell your parents about your bad grades because you're concerned you will get beaten or be served with cruel, unreasonable, or violent punishment, then this is a reasonable fear. A bad report card is no excuse for physical abuse. Tell a teacher, your principal, the school guidance counselor, or another adult that you trust about your concerns. Do not, however, lie about this just to avoid telling your parents about your report card! This is a serious situation with serious consequences.
How to Avoid Bad Grades in the Future
Here are some tips on how you can avoid having to have the "bad report card talk" in the future:
- Do your homework, pay attention in class, take good notes, and study for exams.
- When you don't understand something--speak up! If you're too embarrassed to talk in class, make time to meet your teacher after class.
- Instead of COPYING classmate's homework, work WITH the students who seem to have a clear idea of what's going on in class. Since you are peers, they may be able to explain things to you in a way the teacher hadn't thought of.
- If you KNOW you're not doing well in school, don't wait until you get your report card to confront your parents. Let them know you are having a hard time as soon as you think you are not doing well. Together, you, your parents, and your teacher can come up with a solution to change your grade.
- If you're really not comfortable talking to your parents, then at least make time to meet with your teacher. Your teachers want you to succeed! That's why they do what they do! Let them know you are aware you're not doing well, but want to do better. I'm sure they'll have some ideas on how you can improve. They may even offer you some exclusive extra credit projects just for asking.
- Use some of the resources I have listed below to help you approach learning in a different way. These are resources that I, myself, or my children have used to understand things that we are having difficulty with. Khan Academy has many videos that break things down to their simplest form and since you can learn at your own pace and watch their videos as many times as you need to, you can try and retry the material until you get it down. Crash Course makes learning fun through animated, but very informative videos, that will appeal to visual and auditory learners.
Best of luck letting your parents in on the bad news! Don't wait too long! It'll only get more difficult to do the longer you wait.
You can do it! Take a deep breath, compose yourself, and do your best! It'll be over before you know it!
I wrote this article many years ago when I could relate to being the student more than the parent. I am now the mother of grade school children and have updated this article to include a parent's perspective of things. I hope this helps some of you students understand what your guardian may be thinking.
Many of you have made comments asking for advice and support. I am so sorry I have not responded to these in a timely manner. So I would like to say something to everyone who reads this:
It is okay to be sick to your stomach with worry and fear over this, but whatever happens, you will get past this. You will move on. You are capable of learning. You are capable of accomplishing great things. Sometimes, in life, bad things are going to happen that we just don't want to deal with. You have to push through those times the best you can, learn from the experience, and use that newfound knowledge to do better next time.
Since the pandemic, our world has turned upside down. I know many of you are struggling to keep up with the rapid change in times. Trust and believe your parents and teachers are struggling to navigate this new world, too. Tensions are high, but patience and understanding should be too. Be honest about your needs from the start. Practice open and honest conversations with your parents and teachers long before grades are even an issue. Communication is your new best friend, treat is well. The only way we can succeed in this new world is if we work together.
I wish you all the best.
- Khan Academy | Free Online Courses, Lessons & Practice
Learn for free about math, art, computer programming, economics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, finance, history, and more. Khan Academy is a nonprofit with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
- CrashCourse - YouTube
At Crash Course, we believe that high quality educational videos should be available to everyone for free!
- Crash Course Kids - YouTube
Welcome to Crash Course Kids! This bi-weekly show from the producers of Crash Course is all about gradeschool science.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: I had an abusive parent in the past, but I'm living with my grandparents now. The past three Algebra II tests I've taken have been below 50%, and I usually do very well in school. I'm terrified of talking to my grandad because of the abusive situation with my dad. What should I do?
Answer: You should speak with your teacher and/or your school guidance counselor about your situation. They can provide you with support and resources and assist you with talking to your grandparents. Your teachers want you to succeed and absolutely do not want to see you get hurt. Don't be afraid to talk to them if you are having a hard time. If there is a teacher you bond with better than your math teacher, you can go to them first and ask them to help you discuss the problem with your math teacher.
ANONYMOUS on August 20, 2020:
I dont know if it will work. I am going to tel them my marks after 1 hour.
your local failure on June 25, 2020:
I did this I didn’t get into trouble in fact all that happened was that I got lectured, (btw I got 6 D’s and an F) so just tell your parents about your grades you’ll feel better afterwards
Unidentified hooman on June 23, 2020:
Im failing math. I knew about it. I got my report today and me and my friend joked about it but then my dad came to pick me up. He asked and i jokingly told him about the mark thinking he would be more understanding but he was more disappointed than hes ever been. We talked all the way to home about it and havent said anything to each other since. I told my mom and she was also disappointed but she blames herself which i dont want. They want me to go back to being the old me who did exceedingly well in all my subjects and got certificates and diplomas but unfortunately i lost that part of myself. I wish i saw this post sooner
Help on May 25, 2020:
I got a straight F...
What do I do!?
Scared on March 23, 2020:
I know I got a bad report and it is coming out tomorrow and my mum told me that she is going to take my phone away but I don’t want her to do so, well what should I do?
help on December 01, 2019:
my mom expects me to get all A's, and i got 3 B's for my progress report...idk what i'm supposed to do. I have to tell her tonight but she is not in the best mood right now.
Scared on May 09, 2019:
I took a placement test a few weeks ago and I have to tell my mom my score. I got a 63 percentile rank on it (which is NOT GOOD) . How can I tell her w/o having her blow up on me?
JJbcb on March 03, 2019:
My dad has really bad anger issues And expects me to have all As and Bs anything lower is a really bed grade I dot a D- in English 3% away from an F. What do I do? I am scared and I don’t know what to say to him I have all As and Bs in the rest of my classes and that one bad grade. When I had a C he was soooo upset he could not sleep and woke up a 3am and went to work at 4, and on a regular day he leaves work a 7am.
Nervous on March 01, 2019:
The worst grade I got was a C+ in History. Do y'all think I can butter it up with my A in English? Will my grades in middle school affect my whole life? that's what my mom thinks...
Not so good on February 25, 2019:
Mr. Stark, I dont feel so good...
im a joke on January 19, 2019:
Person on January 07, 2019:
I just read this and got the courage to tell my mom I found out I had an F and the first day I found out I told her and I feel so much better
Eva on November 26, 2018:
I have really bad marks in my papers I don't know if I should tell my parents or not because I'm really scared I don't have the courage to tell my mom that I have failed in three subjects and im afraid for discussing it with my teachers what should I do I have cried a lot
im dead on November 19, 2018:
im in 7th grade, and I get my report card today. I’m really scared about it because I got a bad mark last year and I got in BIG trouble for it. Don’t get me wrong, you have good advice, but this just wouldn’t work on my (African) mom. She’ll probably still beat me
Max Lawrence on October 28, 2018:
Hey, tomorrow my school is going to give my report card.I am really tensed about this as, I lied about my marks.However, when I sum up my old exams they add upto A's.So what what do you think is the best approach?
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on October 25, 2018:
That's a tough one. On the one hand, you all might have a better time if you wait until after your vacation--but it will likely be on your mind the entire time. On the other hand, telling them before hand may put a damper on the vacation, but I doubt anyone is going to want to be in a bad mood the entire time you're away so it may lessen the blow a bit. I suppose, alternatively, you could wait your vacation is almost over so you can enjoy most of it without things being awkward and just deal with whatever they throw at you after you confess.
Confused on October 24, 2018:
We’re going on a family trip soon, and my quarter ends in a week, so they won’t see my report card for another two weeks. Should I tell my parents before we go on the trip and possibly make things awkward or just wait till they see my report card and take over from there. Thanks.
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on October 24, 2018:
Whenever I had trouble talking to my parents about something difficult I would write a letter. Or you can start by talking about a class you are doing really well in and then ease into talking about Pre-Calc. Be sure to have some sort of plan in mind about how you can improve your grades. This should help make talking about it a bit easier.
Scared & Worried on October 23, 2018:
I seem to be doing well in all of my classes, except Pre-Calc, in which I have a D+. How can I begin the conversation? I'm extremely anxious, and don't know how to start the conversation.
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on October 16, 2018:
Come up with a plan of action to improve your grades for next semester and start implementing your plan now. Let your teachers know you are serious about improving your grades and ask them if there's anything you can do right now to earn extra credit. Don't wait until your report card shows up to let your mom know what's going on. Tell her the you know you didn't do well but show her your plan to improve and let her know you are going to try and work with your teachers to improve your grades now. She may still be mad, but perhaps not as mad if she sees you are taking responsibility for your actions and are making a serious attempt to do better.
Aniyah on October 14, 2018:
First of all, I'm failing most of my classes. I always convince myself to do my homework later in the day, (which hasn't been getting me anywhere). Report cards are coming out soon, and there's no way i'll be able to get my grades up before grades close. My mom really wants me to do good in school, and I understand that, but when she sees my report card, i'm dead. i'm afraid I might get beat. My mom is really harsh! Please help me xd
Sonia on September 19, 2018:
I have 4D,s 1C 2F,s and this is my interim report not my report card I haven’t showed my mom or dad yet and the just came out 1day ago but my dad said he going to go to the school and ask for my interim tomorrow what do I do
Siddhanth Marwah on July 29, 2018:
Wow, that actually helped me......but i still got a beating (cant help it can i?)
im dead on May 10, 2018:
i have 1 B 2 A's and 3 F's i need help asap!!
i really need help on May 10, 2018:
i have an F in three classes I'm trying my best and get A's in my test but in my homework i get bad grades so it lowers my GPA i don't know what to do
sarah on April 09, 2018:
I failed on my math test only because of one question that gives you 20 points.. and if you get the question wrong you lose a bunch of grades..
Fay on April 01, 2018:
I really like this because it helps my childern. To learn to talk their out to. There parents about their report card at school sometimes kids are having a rough time at school like too much homework and math test too they just dont understand what there teacher talking about the lesson they tell the teacher if they having a hard time on it because that will help them feel better at school or in high school if they are 18 or 17 years of age they will learn about it in high school too...
worried student on March 24, 2018:
hey um I have a teacher in which we kinda hate each other (it happens) but I noticed my grade was low so I talked to her about my grade a little after halfway through the quarter to lift my grade, she gave me these assignments and I did them and it only ended up lifting my grade just to a D. I am succeeding in all classes except for this one and I am super scared. my parents expect for me to get A's and B's and I usually do except this quarter was different what do I do ?. halp.
liza on March 11, 2018:
My parents constantly check my grades. Every night! If I have even as much as a b- or 1 missing assignment, I immediately get grounded. You might think that its not that hard, but for me, its horrible! The quarter is 3/4 of the way over and I only have 1 A out of all of my 6 subjects! I have no time to organize anything or even look for my papers! We have tons of homework each night, and on the rare occasion that I DON'T have homework, my parents keep saying, "WHERE'S THIS PAPER? DID YOU TURN IN THIS WORKSHEET? WHEN ARE YOU EVER GOING TO GET YOUR GRADES UP?!?'' and I'm fed up with it! This article was helpful I wan't to thank you for the encouragement.
Ku on March 10, 2018:
I got one D in science becuase I don’t understand them also you don’t get much homework . The prograss mark come my grade was bad I got one D and C ,B one A .They don’t speak English so they show to someone they said I fill . They were mad about it I want to tell them my final is good but I can’t said because they will not believe me. They live in different country they had different childhood . They learn different thing than us , they study a lot , u know Asian is like that.when they are going to take test , like big test the teacher tell them which to study and what will be on test. So in here is different . I wish if they come here to school idk how will they going to do. I can’t speak much English.
mia on February 23, 2018:
i got a d- and my mom is being really mean about it i have a Chinese mom so its really hard
??? on February 19, 2018:
Welp...My grades all passed but i dont know why do i still feel like im getting worse...I am losing motivation..and i am scared my parents will get mad at me even if they aren't that mad about lower grades.
Oh No on February 14, 2018:
I got a 67 in dance because i didn't always wear my leotard because it was uncomfortable and i just wore my shorts and tights and my mom will say thats just an excuse and will kill me.
live is hard on February 12, 2018:
ALL OF MY GRADES ARE C'S D'S F'S AND 1 A my dad is going to kill me i cant try these he is a very angry person he has angry issues!! so if i die say i have moved to California and live in hole!
nikolas on January 25, 2018:
im still in middle school 7th grade, and this is very very useful
Cant get all A's on January 18, 2018:
I exactly have 4 A's, E, D, B, and 2 C's. I don't want to show my parents my grades anytime soon, but I have to. Also, my younger sister has all A's in Elementary. I'm in Middle. Please help me...
Stupid Kid on January 18, 2018:
I really need help with my grades. If I show them to my parents, and I dont know how, they will get really mad. Asians expect so much from their kids, and I dont know why. No one is perfect and no one can get straight A's in every semester. It's very sad that they dont understand what I'm going through, I need help how to tell them and all. Tomorrow's last day of my 2nd Semester, just hoping they wont do anything. Thanks for this, now I have evidence about what they shouldn't do. Whoop my ass.
Ganet on January 12, 2018:
I failed a semester core class but i have B’s in all my other ones
Tim on January 11, 2018:
Getting my report card tomorrow and its full of D's and F's...its hopeless...
Wasan on January 10, 2018:
I will get my report card tomorrow, I just want to be positive. And by the way, my dad goes to school and gets my report card...not me. So, lol.
Harvard professor on November 04, 2017:
One of my students failed my test and I did not leave them there to struggle instead I gave them 5 extra points for trying and it put there grade up so much higher and now he is a doctor and he thanks me every day for those extra points.
Uknown three C one D Just Started 6th Grade student on September 30, 2017:
Hopefully My mom doesn't go ballistic.
aliza on July 13, 2017:
so scared got really bad grades my mom is going to be so mad at me i hope this works...
student on March 22, 2017:
i dont know what to do. i have never gotten below a 90 in a report card. this marking period ends tmr and i dont know what to do :(
Kisses, A on January 12, 2017:
It honestly went Horrible. She doesnt even want to look at me right now ); well, at least its done. Thanks
Elaina on October 13, 2016:
I have to give my report card to my parents soon.What i'm trying to get at though is the fact that i have a B in my Pre-Calculus class and and my dad well this is an understatement but he is very upset and disappointed in me.That was before he found out I also have a B in my drama class.I don't know how to approach him and tell him so i'm very worried that im in deep trouble.
A student :( on April 24, 2016:
I have a very low C in Spanish because I missed a few days and didn't understand what we were learning. Do you think my mom will be mad??
Creeper from Aw Man on March 09, 2016:
All As...im grounded
Student on February 04, 2016:
Hope this help Student
Student on February 04, 2016:
A student on January 30, 2016:
I got a D is SS, it's my only bad grade, and I'm sooooo scared, i have to tell my parents but I really don't want to.
student on January 06, 2016:
i havent got my report card yet i am getting it tomorrow but i really hope i dont have a c in lang. arts because of my nine weeks test that i made a 68 on which is half my grade
stulu on October 23, 2015:
wow these are bad grades and i'm scared to tell my mom that I got A's and B's
Billy on February 20, 2015:
hope this works
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on November 06, 2014:
Best of luck!!
Nevaeh on November 05, 2014:
Today I got my report card got straight d and I b and I'm so scared but I hope this will help so I praying
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on October 08, 2014:
I'm happy that this helped you. I can't speak for all parents, but generally speaking, we just want our kids to meet their potential and know that they are doing the very best that they can. We know what the future holds for you so we want you to be as prepared as you can be so you have a better chance at success.
Parents don't want their kids to be afraid of them (even though we sometimes do things that definitely make our kids nervous around us). So being open and honest with us, actually makes us feel pretty good.
I hope the tutoring helps! Do your best!
Student on October 08, 2014:
The quarter is almost over and I'm getting my first non-A's. I'll probably end up with a D in precalc, a B in my AP classes, and an A in my other 4. This hub helped me tell my parents that I didn't understand math very well so I'll probably end up with a low C or D and how I will improve by going to lunch tutoring every day until my grades are up. I thought they wouldn't understand but they are glad that I am taking initiative to bring my grades up for next quarter.
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on February 13, 2014:
I'm so sorry to hear that. :(
Hi on February 13, 2014:
That did not work at all...
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on January 29, 2014:
You'll be okay. Don't worry. They may be mad for a little while but they will get over it. Especially if you make an effort to improve.
hi on January 28, 2014:
Hope I don't die
Samantha Harris (author) from New York on February 18, 2013:
You're welcome. Good luck!
A Student on February 14, 2013:
Thank You very much for this! I feel much better now about telling my parents I got bad grades.
Jeff Boettner from Tampa, FL on October 07, 2012:
That was such a nice read, and a nice perspective. Report card time can be "panic" time for some kids (er , um, not that I would know...), and that was some sound advice.
Ajeet from Mumbai, India on October 05, 2012:
I will get my 12 year old to read this hub with me. I can often detect his hesitation to disclose some scores.