Lots of kids share everything with their friends. Teachers, interests, homework. But as kids get older, their paths start to diverge. And oftentimes one will start to move ahead in school, which can make the others feel left behind. What can you do if your child is the one falling behind her friend in school and encountering tough academic competition? Here are seven strategies to help them out:
- Offer perspective. Are the friend’s grades really better across the board, or is it just in one subject? Are they exceptionally different or just varying by a couple of points? Sometimes kids exaggerate their grades or test scores to make them feel better. Pointing out any of these categories to your child may help him realize that maybe he’s not that far off.
- Encourage healthy academic competition, as long as it’s positive. Competing with a friend for grades can be a good thing – if it’s genuinely pushing them to do their best. Friendly competition might spur each child to do a little more: spend a few more minutes studying their Spanish vocab or the chem chart. And that can drive improved learning and performance, especially if friends enjoy studying together or working collaboratively on a project. But when a level playing field is becoming a battlefield, that’s when your child’s self-esteem can suffer. Remind her that in the grand scheme of things, she’s only competing with herself to do better and get the best grade she can.
- Look for the helpful habits. Some kids are just more organized or productive than others, and that can play a huge role in how much homework gets done and how efficiently. Suggest your child sleuth around to see if he can figure out systems the other child has that might be contributing to a better report card.
- Size up the schedules. Does the other kid go straight home from school and dive into his homework, while your son is at play practice? Did your daughter’s friend choose the Robotics club for her extracurricular activity, while your daughter is playing soccer? Neither of these choices are better than the other, they are just different. But a disparity in schedules can help explain one child’s superior school performance.
- Be open. Does every conversation with that particular friend turn into a discussion of grades, colleges or other achievements? Encourage your child to mention to the friend that he’d like to stick to talking about sports or music at the moment.
- Back off the relationship if it’s too much. Hopefully your child has more in common with his buddy than just their strong grades. But if your child is feeling as though the other kid is gloating encourage him to branch out to some other pals, too.
- Get extra help. Has your child always turned to this buddy for help? That can still be a smart strategy if they enjoy studying together and if the other student doesn’t mind helping and explaining the tougher concepts. But, if study sessions become stressful, that’s when you need to turn to another source. The friendly tutors at Tutor.com are a great resource for helping your child master challenging work in any subject.
The point is never to make excuses or encourage your child to make excuses, but rather to help them learn to assess situations accurately – and ultimately realize that sometimes people have different strengths. Academic competition between friends can be tough. As kids grow through middle and high school, some find that coursework that used to be no big deal is now more of a challenge. And that’s ok.
Remind your child that some things are going to come easier, than others. Remind them of all the things they are great at, and that grades are just one part of their overall achievements. Encourage them to remain friends and focus on the other great things about their friendship.