What Can I Do if My Child is Failing Several Subjects?

There are many reasons for children's failures. Finding them and taking action is the best way to promote your child's school performance. Here's where to start.
What Can I Do if My Child is Failing Several Subjects?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 11 August, 2022

Before the Christmas, Easter, and summer vacations comes one of the most dreaded moments for parents and children: report cards. These grades can lead to compliments and celebrations, uncomfortable conversations in some families, and real pitched battles in others. Parents often wonder, “What do I do if my child is failing several subjects?”

These failures can be a hard blow for children and adolescents, but also for their parents, who may not know how to approach and improve the situation. The reality is that there’s no single reason that accounts for low grades, nor is there a universal solution. Therefore, we want to offer you some keys to proceed in these circumstances.

Why is my child failing several subjects?

Often, the easiest thing to do is to blame the child for their poor grades and attribute these results to their lack of effort. However, in many cases, it’s a lack of dedication that’s the cause of bad grades, there may be more reasons.

Unaddressed learning problems

It’s possible that a child or young person doesn’t achieve academic success because he or she has additional difficulties that have not been identified. Dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, motor disorders, or dyscalculia are some conditions that can make learning difficult in and out of the classroom.

If your child has any of these and doesn’t receive appropriate support, treatment or guidance, it will be very difficult for him or her to keep up academically.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: 9 Tips and Techniques for Studying if You Have ADHD

A lack of motivation

On other occasions, parents have constant fights with their children to make them study every day and focus on what they are doing. They always find an excuse to postpone that moment and find any pretext to distract themselves from their homework (something that is becoming easier and easier with social networks ).

This situation doesn’t always occur because the child is irresponsible, but rather because he/she is unmotivated. The lessons, the learning style, or the way the educational system works don’t attract their attention and don’t arouse their curiosity or their desire to learn.

Thus, they may think that their education is a waste of time. Or they may think that it’s merely an imposition to get out of as soon as possible.

Distractions should be regulated so that children can focus on their schoolwork.

Inadequate study habits and techniques

Many children do make an effort to study and complete their homework, yet they still fail. In these cases, it’s true that they invest several hours each day, start studying in advance and take advantage of the time (they don’t get distracted); however, they still don’t get the expected results.

This is usually due to inadequate study habits. Remember that it’s not about studying more, but about studying better.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Bullying at School: Is Your Child a Victim and You Don’t Know It?

A lack of time

It’s also possible that if your child is failing several subjects, it’s because he/she does not have enough time to dedicate to his/her studies. Sometimes, children and teenagers have tight schedules between school hours and extracurricular activities. Not only do they take time away from their studies, but they also carry a level of stress that prevents them from performing well in school.

Emotional problems

Finally, if the child is going through difficult times at a personal, family, or school level, this can have an impact on their grades. Parental divorce, bereavement of a loved one, being the victim of bullying, or not knowing how to manage their emotions can make it very difficult to focus on their studies.

What to do if your child is failing several subjects

The origins of poor grades can be very diverse. Therefore, the measures to take will depend on the specific case.

We’ll show you some keys that can be useful in your home:

  • If you suspect a learning disability, it’s best to see a professional for a psychological evaluation. He/she will be able to determine the most appropriate supports and adaptations for the child, as well as teach him/her strategies for use.
  • It’s important to establish a routine and instill good study habits. Your child needs to learn to plan and organize, have adequate space, and work every day. Putting everything off until before the test is not a good option. He or she may need to learn new study techniques that work for him. Initially, you can help him or her (or seek outside help) with this goal, but it’s important that he or she progressively takes charge of his or her own progress.
  • Sometimes it can be helpful to prioritize activities to lighten the schedule so that the child has more time available to study. Excessive stress is not a good thing.
  • If he or she is having trouble concentrating or struggling in a particular subject, you can offer your help. However, when parents act as teachers, the close connection between the two often makes the experience very negative for them both. An academy or a private tutor are better solutions.
  • To combat the lack of motivation, it’s necessary to help the child to get involved with his or her own life project. Encourage him or her to project himself into the future, to imagine the life he or she wants to live, and to understand how education plays a relevant role in this plan. Even if school doesn’t motivate the child or teen in the short term, he or she will have an incentive to continue.
My Child is Failing
Parental support can’t be ignored, but it also can’t exceed certain healthy limits so that the child becomes responsible for him or herself.

If your child is failing subjects, you gain nothing by punishing them

Scolding and excessive punishments are never good educational alternatives.

These practices undermine children’s self-esteem and the emotional bonds between parents and children. Instead, it’s better to focus on reinforcement and finding solutions together.

If your child is failing several subjects, sit down with him/her to discuss possible causes and available solutions. Involve him/her in this process so that he/she can take responsibility for what happened, but at the same time, let him/her know that he/she can count on your support to find a suitable solution.

Positive reinforcement can be used to motivate the child, but it’s not advisable to use excessive material rewards to reward him/her. Intrinsic motivation (that which arises from one’s own desire to learn, improve or achieve one’s own goal) is much stronger than external reinforcement.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Aguilar, J., González, D., & Aguilar, A. (2016). Un modelo estructural de motivación intrínseca. Acta de investigación psicológica6(3), 2552-2557.
  • Artigas-Pallarés, J. (2002). Problemas asociados a la dislexia. Revista de neurología34(1), 7-13.
  • Enríquez Villota, M. F., Fajardo Escobar, M., & Garzón Velásquez, F. (2015). Una revisión general a los hábitos y técnicas de estudio en el ámbito universitario. Psicogente18(33), 166-187.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.