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I’m Celebrating My C Student Who Makes an A+ Effort

Even in his preschool years my son struggled to learn. Early intervention testing showed that he might be at risk for learning issues later in life. In his first year of school, I received many concerned phone calls from his teacher. He was not sitting for circle, he struggled to print his name, he did not know his colors and numbers. On and on, the list of problems grew.

It was hard to watch him struggle to keep up to the other children. His self-esteem plummeted because he simply could not perform the way that school was asking him to. By fifth grade, he was struggling academically and it seemed he no longer cared. More psychological testing showed definite learning disabilities and the school worked with us on his Individual Education Plan (IEP). Accommodations were made. He went to tutoring two nights a week for three years but, while his reading improved, he never really “caught up” with his classmates.

Years of struggle and failure led to my son being apathetic about academics. With time, and help from experts including a therapist, he was happier—but his grades never went above a C. Here are some tips that helped me learn to be okay with my average student.

My Son Is a C-Student and That’s Okay

1. Your child’s achievements are not a reflection of you or your parenting.

Even though we often judge other parents based on how their child behaves or performs we need to remind ourselves that our teens are their own person. My son is not an extension of me. As an overachiever who works with children and families this was difficult for me to come to terms with.

2. Do not make comparisons.

It seems like this should go without saying, but we can’t compare our C student to their siblings, neighbors, or friends. I struggled to not compare my high school years to my son’s. I made good grades and got involved in school activities. School was my favourite place to be, and I spent much of my time with my nose in a book. Seeing the years go by with my son never touching the books on his bookshelf were hard.

3. Your child likely does care about their grades.

They might pretend they don’t care about school in order to protect themselves from feelings of failure and embarrassment but, chances are, they care very much. Our son cared about doing well in school and he wanted to achieve and make us happy, but regular classes moved too quickly for him and even accommodations could only take him so far.

4. Find out what your child is good at and get them involved in it.

Our son was extremely interested in skateboarding, so we encouraged him to do it outside of school. He excelled at it and we saw his self-esteem skyrocket. We then worked with the school to find classes that were more hands-on. Help steer your child to a future career that fits with their abilities and aptitudes. Throughout the pandemic, my son has been able to finish his high school diploma through co-operative education. He has also been working with a union to earn his apprenticeship hours in the construction trade. Best of all, he already has a good paying job lined up for when school finishes this year.

5. Celebrate your C student the same way you’d celebrate an A student.

My son has always struggled to achieve in school, but he has so many other amazing qualities that have nothing to do with a letter grade. He is proud of his achievements and so are we. After years of trying to figure out how to help him do better academically, we have learned to celebrate every C that he gets because we know how hard he has worked for it. No matter what grades he earns, my son—and every C student like him—deserves to feel accepted, understood and loved for who he is.

Tina Szymczak is a 40-something wife and mom to two spirited young men. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Her work has appeared on Her View from Home, the Mighty, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can see more at her blog

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