This is a very good question! As parents we tend to worry about our children’s hurt feelings when they don’t measure up.
The important thing here is: How does the child explain her low grade?
Does she say, “I guess the teacher doesn’t like me,” or “The test wasn’t fair,” or “I can’t do math” ?
The first two responses put the responsibility of the low grade on external sources, meaning it has nothing to do with Elena. There’s nothing she could have done differently to get a better grade.
The third response points to her low ability to explain her grade. “I can’t do math,” implies that she sees herself as incapable and therefore not able to improve. Her performance in math is stable, doesn’t change.
But perhaps Elena says, “I didn’t study enough. I planned to study, but I got busy watching tv, and then I forgot about the test.”
Here she has taken responsibility for her low grade. Her belief is that if she studies more, she can do better. Her performance on this particular test was a result of something over which she has control: how much she studies.
Next: How parents can guide their child to a more accurate, healthy view of their successes and failures.