Making Bad Grades: An Unorthodox Tip for the New School Year

Making Bad Grades: An Unorthodox Tip for the New School Year

Let’s go back in time:

You’re 12 years old, walking home from school, sweating over the report card in your backpack. Your parents ask for it the minute you walk through the door. On it, they see 2 As, 2 Bs, and a D.

Report-Cards-Are-a-Good-Lesson-in-How-to-Talk-to-KidsWhich grade do Mom & Dad want to talk about first?

For 30 years, I’ve been asking this question to audiences in my power-alley attributes seminars. And 97% of the time, I hear the same answer: “The D, of course!”

Be Part of the 3%

If your children bring home report cards like this one, do you want to talk about the D first? Do you focus on where they’re doing poorly?

Or are you among the 3% of parents focusing that conversation on where your children have performed with excellence?

If you fall into category #1, I have a pretty good idea of where this conversation is headed next, because I’ve had it many times.

When I use this example at the beginning of an attributes training, a lot of parents defend this focus on the negative with comments like, “I’m just trying to help her get better at what she’s bad at.”

Okay. I see that you have good reason for it. I see that your motives are not malicious. This is your child, after all! You want what’s best for her, of course.

But if you want her to excel, I believe you’re taking the wrong approach.

Praise for the Power Alley

Answer me this: At work, when you have bosses who constantly remind you of your shortcomings, does their approach really light you up and make you engaged with your work?

Why would your child be any different?

And here’s the main question, if your desire is truly to encourage excellence: How does a person realize his or her full potential?

The answer is intuitive but, in our day, often countercultural: we become great by focusing on strengths.

We excel in life by optimizing our natural gifts and positives – what I call power-alley attributes. Not by spending precious time focusing on what we’re not naturally built for.

In fact, this latter approach can have long-term detrimental effects. As Albert Einstein is believed to have said, “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

And a Relationship to Boot

Many clients have reported that when they start focusing conversations around their children’s power-alley attributes, they see a huge positive turn in their relationships with their kids.

%22If you judge a fish by its ability to climbAfter one mom and dad made this effort for several weeks, their 8-year-old asked, “Are we going to talk anymore about what I’m bad at, like we used to?”

“Why,” Dad responded, “do you want to?”

The child thought for a minute, then answered: “No.”

Try focusing on their gifts as you send them back to school this year.

If it improves your relationship, then the effort is of incomparable value.

If it also improves their engagement, attitude, enjoyment of school, and therefore their performance, then please let me know.

Then I can e-mail your boss and recommend that she try the same with you!

5 thoughts on “Making Bad Grades: An Unorthodox Tip for the New School Year

  1. Evan Kessler - September 3, 2015 at 10:04 am

    I have told people this hundreds of times since the first time I heard you ask this several years ago. Usually, not in talking about kids but about people ‘s attributes (their own, their kids, their employees, etc.) Love it!

    • Bill Munn - September 3, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Thanks, Evan, for the encouraging words. Glad it’s working so well!

  2. twalterman - September 4, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Great message, I’ll apply it as a mother and a business owner! Thank you

    • Bill Munn - September 8, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Thanks for the positive comments. Love to hear your results!


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