When my oldest started kindergarten, I thought it was pretty cool that I could go in and look at his progress in his classes via an online parent portal. It was new to me since he was my first child to enter school (and of course, back in my day, we had paper report cards). But honestly, I forgot about it after the initial newness wore off. Two kids and two years later, I still don’t check the thing, and I have no intention of starting.
Seriously: I may have checked his grades twice by the time he reached third grade. That was the year my other two kids started school, one in first grade and one in kindergarten. I was super busy, with a finite amount of time, and I couldn’t do everything and keep it all straight — some stuff had to give. Just getting them from school, helping with homework, and trying to get dinner started without any major meltdowns was a lot. The last thing I wanted to do after bedtime routines was to open my computer when I could barely see straight. And so checking their grades online wasn’t something I did. Like ever. I never checked in on them to see how they were doing in school.
One might say in those elementary school years I didn’t utilize the parent portal because I was lazy, and they are absolutely right. But I also didn’t put a lot of focus on their grades then. They all were well-adjusted and weren't having any major issues, so I didn’t feel the need to micro-manage. I always saw their report cards, went to parent/teacher conferences, and checked in with my kids every day. In middle school, my kids got more independent, didn’t need as much help with their homework, and wanted nothing to do with me — meaning I had more time on my hands. Even then I didn’t check their grades. But not for the same reasons as when they were young, though.
When my oldest was a freshman in high school, he started struggling to keep up with his schoolwork. I thought about checking in on him then, because I knew it would allow me to see which assignments he was missing, which ones were late, and what his current grades were at any given time. But there wasn’t a piece of my soul that wanted to do that. I strongly felt like he was old enough to manage his own work and if that meant he was handing things in late and getting a lower grade, then that was up to him. Yes, I still reminded and encouraged him to be handing all his work in on time, but there’s something to be said for his facing the consequences of his own actions.
He was old enough to understand he was falling behind because he wasn’t doing the work. Also, if you are a parent to teens you know you can tell them to do something until they are blue in the face and that doesn’t guarantee they are going to do it.
Growing up, my parents didn’t have the option to look at my grades or daily assignments. I knew it was up to me to get things handed in on time, or ask to take a test over if I didn’t do well. It taught me independence and responsibility.
I feel like it would undermine my kids if I were looking at their school assignments every day. I want them to want to get their work done on time and put in their best effort because they want that for themselves. Not because they know their parents are going to see it. The teenage years are when they are learning autonomy, and I think letting them deal with their school work and grades while teaching them to ask for help if they are struggling is the best gateway to being an independent young adult.
I also want to build a trusting relationship with my teenage children, and I want to do that by asking them how they are doing in school, if they are getting all their work in or if they are struggling. I’d much rather have a conversation and take their word for it than check a computer every night.
I understand everyone’s circumstances and comfort level is different around this subject. I know my opinion isn’t the most popular but it's what has worked for me and my kids. When my kids are falling behind, or not doing what they should be doing in school it’s up to them to catch up, ask for help, or let me know they need help and they aren’t sure what to do. I believe they are more than capable of handling that.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.