Good grades vs. domestic harmony

What should they do? “The kids are 
trying hard enough 
in school.”

By Deacon Tom and JoAnne Fogle

Family of four

Sally says: Sam is putting unrealistic demands for grades on our kids — if they don’t get straight A’s, he “motivates” them by taking away privileges. I was a B student myself, so I don’t think this is fair. We are 
arguing constantly about it. “They need to 
bring home perfect 
report cards.”

Sam says: The only way 
our kids will get ahead is 
by working hard and getting 
top grades. I would think Sally would be behind me 100 percent on this. In the current economic climate, only the cream of the crop will survive.

There are many facets to this issue that need to be taken into consideration, but two are immediate: the impact on the child and the impact on Sam and Sally’s relationship. The former is not about perfect or good grades — rather, the impact on the child is the constant arguing between the parents over the issue.

Realistic standards
Too often, we see parents who tend not to care about their children’s successes, so it is very commendable that both parents wish only the best for their children and are taking an active role in helping them achieve that. In setting the standards, however, both Sam and Sally need to be realistic about their children’s abilities and capabilities, and not make an artificial presumption that only top grades produce the cream of the crop. Even though Sam is taking an active interest in his children’s potential and is serious about his fatherhood role, his actions may be doing more harm than good. The words of Colossians 3:21 are most appropriate: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.”

Be in agreement
The greatest gift Sam and Sally can give to their children is to be in agreement with each other on the expectations they have for their children. Sally and Sam should discuss their feelings about setting standards of achievement for their children, the best way to achieve those standards, and what compromise they can support in unity. St. Paul encourages us to “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) These sensitive discussions are best held behind closed doors — not in front of the children or within their range of hearing — and in a calm, non-anxious manner.

Prayer and the past
When discussing sensitive or polarizing issues, a technique we have found useful is to start with a short prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for guidance and to be open to new ideas. Then share with each other your own upbringing and what your parents expected of you. For example, did you get paid (our least preferred method) for good grades or was there some other form of bribery (oops — we meant to say “enticement”) used? Did they instill in you the importance of striving to do your best by explaining the role your grades might play later on for you if you desire to go to college, or how good grades might help you achieve a scholarship? Discussing these components will help you get in touch with the feelings behind the issue and will lead to a solution both of you can be comfortable in supporting.

Deacon Tom and JoAnne Fogle help 
prepare couples for marriage in the 
Diocese of Lansing, Mich. Contact 
them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

NORTHWEST CATHOLIC - January/February 2014