Parenting Skills: Why Getting an F is One of the Best Things for Your Child

Last Updated on May 31, 2022 by Thinkster

Did you click on this parenting skills blog because you found it crazy that an educational company is saying that F’s are good?

The title may have had you scratching your head, but it’s completely true!

If someone asks you a question or a fact that you know, you recite the answer. But when asked something you don’t know, there’s a discovery process that happens. This process is what makes information stick

At Thinkster Math, we’re firm believers that failing is one of the best things when it comes to your child’s learning and retention! We say that if your child doesn’t fail, then they aren’t really learning! Your child undergoes a learning process and becomes more self-aware when they fail. 

Here are five parenting skills tips that you can use with your child to turn Fs into big learning improvements! 

Parenting Skills Tip #1: Know What It Takes to Learn

Does your child zip through their homework or spend only twenty minutes studying to get a 100% on a test? 

On paper, the results may seem great, but when it comes to your child’s learning, this may not be the case. 

If your child focuses on studying and cramming for a test, they often do not retain information in their long-term memory. It’s why they may panic when it comes time for final exams as they try to remember material taught months ago!   

Learning best happens when your child is focused, exerts effort, and spreads out the learning over at least several days. 

For example, if your child spends ten minutes trying to memorize the formula for calculating the volume of a cylinder, then they may remember it for their test tomorrow. 

test taking

But for your child to remember the formula long after the test, they need to put in more effort during study time. They should take at least a week leading up to the test practice solving a variety of problems using the formula. 

Our Thinkster tutors don’t like to see 100% on every assignment their students complete. If their students are receiving high grades and completing work under the recommended amount of time, they may reach a state of complacency.

And being complacent is dangerous! Your child is likely more than capable of performing above capacity and learning more and more. But when they see 100%s, they may feel content or that they “know it all” already. 

Which isn’t the case! 

There’s always more they can learn to expand their thinking! 

Instead of letting students be evaluated at a level where they receive 100% constantly, they should be evaluated at a level that shows them there is a level of potential they should aspire to reach.  

Your child needs to be challenged to perform a little outside of their comfort zone. Sure, there’s a chance your child scores a lower grade — but that’s okay! It leads your child to reflect on ways to improve if they don’t perform as well as they hope. 

Parenting Skills Tip #2: Reassess Your Perception of Failure

Learning from failure and mistakes is a powerful learning method. The greatest creators and inventors all floundered a handful of times! Instead of letting failure deter them, they reflect on their actions to achieve success. 

So if your child answers a question incorrectly, how do they react? Are they angry? Dismayed? Frustrated? 

Your reaction to failure likely inspires the way your child reacts, so step back and ask yourself: 

How do I respond to failure? 

If you don’t respond positively, how can you expect your child to? 

This is why it’s so important that you switch your perspective of failure so that your child switches theirs too! 

One of the first things that you need to do is change the way you think about failure. Usually, failure is associated with negativity, but this is far from the case! 

Failure is what leads to self-awareness and learning improvements. Students generally undergo a period of reflection when confronted with failure.

To learn from failure, your child needs to have an idea of what the results ought to be before they put in the effort. This allows them to then evaluate and assess the results after. By measuring the effort they are using before and after, they can then determine what they should have done differently to improve their process. 

If your child gets an A on a test, then they probably won’t take the time to reflect on why they got an A! 

What if they studied the 40% of the material that just happened to be on the test? What if they crammed the night before the test and got lucky? 

Once your child gets that A-grade on the test, though, they likely won’t retain the material over a long period of time. (Especially if they crammed for the test!) 

But if your child fails, they need to take the time to assess what gaps exist in their knowledge of the material. This allows them to identify the specific areas that they need to get better in. 

Bob Lenz from Edutopia shares, “We see failure as an opportunity for students to receive feedback on their strengths as well as their areas of improvement — all for the purpose of getting better. When reframed as a good, constructive, and essential part of learning, failure is a master teacher.”

Failure and mistakes are incredibly powerful and essential for progress, so keep in mind it’s part of learning growth! 

Parenting Skills Tip #3: Keep the Door Open 

When was the last time you had a discussion with your child about why they failed a test or quiz? 

If you’ve shied away from it in the past, it’s time to open up the dialogue! This is especially critical to do as soon as failure happens. 

As a first step, start to talk openly about failure. Let your child know that there’s no reason to be upset over a failing grade or when they get a question wrong. Instead, it’s a matter of understanding how they failed and sharing their thoughts on how they can improve. 

Your child then needs to learn how to manage and measure effort. Failure often happens because of a mismatch between effort and performance. If your child does not realize how much effort they need to succeed, they may then perform poorly. 

Your child needs to reflect after any performance. It’s not only in academics, but also in activities like sports, music recitals, or drama productions. Self-reflection leads to self-awareness, which helps your child start to take positive steps toward improvement.  

When it comes to academics, your child also needs to feel comfortable coming to you to discuss their grades. 

When you were in school, did you ever get a low grade on a test and were afraid to tell your parents about it? Were you worried that your parents would freak out and you would get in trouble? 

Unless you’ve had a conversation about failure with your child, they likely have this similar fear and may be afraid of coming to you! It’s not too late to start talking to your child. 

parent child conversation

Be sure to discuss that failure isn’t anything bad and why failure happens. Help them understand the preparation and effort required that can help them improve and succeed.

Before any test, assignment, project, or presentation, test, your child needs to set goals. 

What do they want their outcome to be? 

What preparation and steps should they take to reach that outcome?

Then that test or project, have your child use these questions to self-reflect: 

  • Did I fail? 
  • What steps did I take to prepare? 
  • How much effort did I put into preparation? 
  • How much effort should I have put into this? 
  • Was there a mismatch between effort and performance… and why?

The last question may be a little tricky for your child to answer as they begin reflecting on their own performance. Over time your child should be able to answer it on their own, especially as they develop greater self-awareness and become an autonomous learner

Parenting Skills Tip #4: Create An Action Plan For Your Child

Children crave routine and an organized way of getting things done. 

It’s why they play during playtime and do homework during homework time. 

Predictability helps them better prepare and prioritize their tasks. This way they can organize their days and events and activities. 

As your child starts to learn how to organize, help them learn how to create a plan of action. 

If they have two tests coming up next week, sit down and help them develop a study plan so they prepare for both tests carefully. 

This helps your child organize their effort, what they need to do, and the overarching process required to get it done.

For studying in particular, one effective study technique is to work on deficiencies. Any strengths and proficiencies should be reviewed too, but your child should take more time focusing on understanding those areas where they need the most help.

Your child also needs to work on identifying, examining, and understanding their own proficiencies. It helps them become more self-aware as they can pinpoint areas where they need help the most. 

For children that have trouble looking at their own proficiencies, it’s often because they are uncomfortable examining their own weaknesses. Remind your child that poor performance or failure is not a bad thing. They are now just aware of the areas to work on so that they can improve! 

Your child can also get their own Thinkster Math tutor to help them! 

When your child works with a Thinkster tutor, they receive a learning plan with a clear routine. They work systemically and understand the importance of reviewing their work and performance too. Your child receives daily feedback on their assignments, and always has access to video tutorials, which provide support at the point of learning. 

The dynamic progress matrix allows your child to monitor their proficiencies, and you can use this to review your child’s performance too! 

Parenting Skills Tip #5: Review and Monitor Your Child’s Performance

Now that your child has taken steps to learn from their mistakes in a structured way, you should review and monitor what they are doing. This way, you are ensuring that they are making improvements. 

You also want to check that they put in the required effort and take accountability for their learning. 

Performance gains are not only applicable in math, but also in other activities like music or sports. Defined Checkpoints or levels show your child they are improving their skills. For example, piano books have different levels, and Karate has different belts to represent levels visually. 

If you can get this in music and sports, then why not in math? 

If your child has a tutor or attends a learning center, you should have a way of checking their progress easily. 

This is one of the big reasons Thinkster Math gives you access to everything your child does. 

The Parent Insights App and weekly emailed reports share the time spent on assignments, scores, and feedback. It’s easy for you to measure the effort your child is putting into their learning. You can also visually follow improvements on the Progress Matrix. 

checking grades

All of these tools give you the reassurance that your child is turning low grades into learning moments. 

Remember also to monitor what your child does outside of academics — whether it’s extracurricular activities or even their friendships! Social interactions have a big impact on your child’s development, and many kids go through changes in middle school that can affect their school performance. 

This doesn’t mean that you should sneakily read your child’s messages or eavesdrop on their phone calls!

Instead, observe any changes in their behavior and make sure that your child always feels encouraged to come to you if they ever need to talk.

You can also work with your child to help them proactively prepare for the future by teaching them always to speak and act with compassion. Not only does this have a positive impact on others, but your child also learns to treat themselves with self-respect. 

A positive, healthy mindset helps your child embrace failure and move forward toward success! 


The next time that your child receives a less than stellar grade focus on the positives! Your child can use failure as a way of understanding the mismatch in expectations, the effort required for success, and the actual outcome. 

Remember and follow these five parenting skills tips: 

  1. Understand when learning happens
  2. Reassess your perception of failure
  3. Have open discussions with your child 
  4. Create an action plan 
  5. Review and monitor your child’s performance

By following these steps, you can help influence the way that your child reacts to failure or mistakes so that they make measurable improvements. 

Be sure to also find support from a tutor or learning program that embraces failure the same way. 

Thinkster Math tutors turn failure into teachable moments to help students improve and understand concepts and questions. Your child has one Thinkster tutor that works with them to customize a learning plan. The tutor monitors everything your child does and shares their feedback on your child’s performance. Your child uses the feedback to learn from mistakes and how to reorganize their efforts to become successful. 

If you’re looking for online math tutoring to help your child, you can try Thinkster risk-free.

Thinkster provides a full-fledged online tutoring platform (driven by AI, behavioral, and data science), as well as supplemental math worksheetsmath homework helptest prep, and more. Our Parent Insights App allows you to monitor your student‘s work and learning improvements at any time.

An elite, expert math tutor and online teaching system work together to help your student go beyond just learning math – we want them to master it.

Learn more about our curriculum and teaching style here.

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