Is This Normal?

Why is My Child Grade Obsessed?

You Ask, Experts Answer!

Q: My sixth grade daughter is obsessed with her grades. She is very smart and school isn’t hard for her, but if she makes a mistake on an assignment, she loses it. She got a C on a rough draft of a paper and cried before and after school for two days. We do not reward or punish our kids for their grades, so we don’t know where this pressure to get only A grades is coming from. How can I help her?
— Kalamazoo Mom

A: Although it’s positive your daughter is self-motivated and strives for academic excellence, she seems to be putting unnecessary pressure on herself. A helpful place to start may be to explore and list some possible things that are fueling this high expectation. Even though the messages for high success may not be coming from within the family directly, there may be other sources. Some examples include a culture within the classroom or school offering academic rewards, peer or sibling competition, believing in unrealistic requirements for her future academic and career goals, or seeking authority approval. Having her identify possible reasons someone would strive for high grades may provide insight for all parties involved regarding this need for perfection.

Also, to encourage her to think outside of herself, ask her to think about the advice she would give to someone she cares about who is putting a lot of pressure on themselves for good grades. Your daughter may also benefit from creating more balance in her priorities by identifying her other strengths and talents in addition to academics. Work on fostering growth in those areas to take the focus off of the need to excel in academics.

It may also be positive to help her look back at previous times she did not meet a goal she set for herself and process how she was able to move forward and continue to succeed. If these suggestions do not seem to relieve some of her stress, it may be beneficial for her to see a mental health professional to prevent it from becoming a more significant clinical concern.

Questions answered by Nichole Holliday, MA, LLPC, LLMFT, Private Practice at Child & Family Psychological Services Portage, and Alyssa Noonan, LLMSW, Private Practice at
Child & Family Psychological Services Kalamazoo.

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Where does grade pressure come from?

Even though the messages for high success may not be coming from within the family directly, there may be other sources. Some examples include a culture within the classroom or school offering academic rewards, peer or sibling competition, believing in unrealistic requirements for her future academic and career goals, or seeking authority approval.

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