Progress Book & Parenting.

So I am not sure if everyone knows what Progress Book is or if you may have something by another name. But our school district introduced Progress Book to my husband and I when our son was in elementary school. Progress Book is an online classroom management platform that lets you view your grades, homework, schedule, attendance, and report card information.

At first I thought, awesome! how convenient. I can keep tabs on what is going on myself and not rely strictly on what I am told. Ooooh I can check up on him and what he tells me. What I didn’t know at that time was that my controlling tendencies were going to make progress book a new job for me.

When I sit here and think about it now, it seems like it should just be a helpful tool and it is harmless. But that is not the experience I had with it. 

I really want to make it clear. I am not saying that all parents fall into this pattern that I did. What I am saying is if you find yourself in this position, that some or all of this rings true for you, then maybe allow yourself to pause and drop into curiosity with this information that I share as it may be helpful to you. Perhaps you can take this opportunity to reframe or intentionally decide how you want this tool to be utilized in your life. 

I now have the advantage of looking back and seeing the results of my actions. If I can help any parent create awareness and pull them out of the autopilot behavior they are in or maybe to be able to see what results they are getting from their current practice, I would love to be able to support you in that journey. 

When I think back to what using Progress Book looked like for me and our family, I am actually quite embarrassed to admit it. At that time I owned my own company with my 2 brothers and business partners and I was actively involved in the day to day operations. I had so much on my plate each day that I really needed to stay focused to accomplish all my tasks. That is a whole separate topic. But let’s look at what happened. I was told about this new tool Progress Book to be able to monitor my son’s grades. I signed up with my own login, it linked me to my son, the student, and I was all set. I had this bookmarked on my computers and my phone. I can recall at my worst moments literally logging and checking hourly on some days. When I think back to those moments, I know that my control issues were in full effect. I had so many other things going on, that I looked for anything I felt like I could control. So I recognize that my reasons for checking this platform so frequently could be coming from my own unique reasons. Maybe your reasons will be different. It would be a good first step to know what your driving reasons are for why you do what you do. So to look at this with curiosity I would suggest asking yourself these questions…

  1. How often do I log in to the platform? What is your frequency? Do you have a routine with it? Do you have parameters that keep you in line? Do you check it once a day, once a week, once a month?
  2. Is there conflict that arises as a result of information I view in Progress Book? Have I been involved in arguments with my child due to the grades that I have seen in progress book? 
  3. How do I utilize the information I view in Progress Book? Do I have a structure for when the information I see is discussed? When do I talk about it? How do I involve my partner in the conversation?
  4. In what ways has Progress Book positively improved life in our home?
  5. In what ways has Progress Book negatively impacted life in our home?

I suggest these questions because I wish I would have had these questions posed to me about 10 years ago when my son was younger. 

So reflect on what comes up for you in these questions. Notice what feeling you feel in your body. Is it defensive, curious, open minded? If it is a negative energy I would get to the root of that before you can truly be open minded about answering these questions. 

So how about I go through these questions and answer them as my former self 10 years ago. 

  1. How often did I log in to the platform? It escalated pretty quickly to where I was looking at it up to 20 times a day. I can remember having a thought…I wonder if anyone can see how frequently I log in? I hope not because they will think I am crazy!
  2. Was there conflict that came about as a result of information I viewed in Progress Book? Yes there was. I would see things and get frustrated and text my husband about it or I would sometimes just bring it up as soon as I saw my son. I can actually remember times I would pounce on him as soon as he walked in the door from the bus. 
  3. How did I utilize the information I viewed in Progress Book? I would allow it to distract me, to frustrate me, I would sometimes use it to catch my son in a lie. I would make it mean whether he was going to be successful. 
  4. In what ways did Progress Book positively improve life in our home? From my first experience with my son, I can’t really say there was much positive at all. With our daughter currently we do have a better relationship with it. Which I will talk more about coming up. 
  5. In what ways did Progress Book negatively impact life in our home? I allowed it to create an area of conflict in our home and with our relationship with our son. I became so focused on letter grades. I started to do the same with our daughter but moved away from that which again I will be talking about. 

Now listen, even as I say all this. There is part of my brain that is saying, well of course it is our job as parents to watch what our kids are doing, to keep them on the right path, to correct them and hold them accountable. To verify and confirm what they are saying. I get all that. Like I said earlier, this platform may not be an issue for everyone. But if you are someone that can relate to the negative results that I have shared in this video I want you to know you are not alone and there are others ways to structure this. If you use your prefrontal cortex and plan intentionally for what you want the results to be in your life you can find a scenario that works much better for everyone. 

Since I have shared my experience with this I have heard from other parents that they also have been in a habit of checking progress book or similar platforms way too often and have reacted in unproductive ways with their kids. I also heard stories of parents seeing bad grades during Covid and yelling at their kids. I think this is really eye opening because none of us were prepared for what Covid and virtual learning was going to bring about. 

So my hope is that sharing my story will give you something to think about. And you can make some intentional decisions for how you want to use this platform. 

After researching some experts in parenting had a few ideas when it comes to these platforms.

One thought is that kids might actually need to receive a few bad grades before they can correct their course themselves. Or maybe they need to turn in an assignment late a couple times to see the importance of time management without having parents prompting them to do so. One suggestion is to let children monitor their own grades and rely on the teachers to alert them of they need the parents to get involved. 

One contributor shared that instead of logging into her kids online grade portal she sends an email to their teachers at the beginning of the year letting them know that one of her goals is to help her child build up their executive function skills such as organization and planning which promotes them to be responsible for their own life so she will not be using the portal this year to check up on her child’s grades. She asks that the teachers request parent conferences at the scheduled times or reach out to her if her child becomes off track in a significant way. 

I thought these were some great ideas for alternative ways to approach this whole conversation. 

Look, I am certain that as parents none of us want to add stress to our children…and I am not saying we are doing this with negative intent. It could just be the pressure in society for our children to be the best, perform the best and reach their full potential. But I want to start a conversation that perhaps there is a better way. A way that promotes individual responsibility and allows our homes to be a place of peace and comfort, not just more of the school environment at home. We want them to have rest. Our primitive brains will tell us stories creating fear, [panic and worry and have us questioning our kids as soon as they step foot off the bus. Like me. I recall one time I asked my son about his grade on a test and he didn’t even know what he had gotten yet as the grades were entered after he had left school. I am not proud of how I showed up at all in some situations. However I am grateful that I learned and I modified my approach and I made positive changes. I listened to what my daughter told me and I challenged what my brain had been telling me. We found a new way that worked for the parents and the child. 

Remember, this is not a one size fits all approach. If your involvement in your child’s grades is not adversely affecting them or you, then please continue. It does work for some parents and the involvement creates higher performers. I am not saying that having involvement is bad across the board. But just like my situation there can be a downside. I just want to help bring this to light so you can evaluate. 

Consider asking your child what they think about that relationship between you and their grades and the online access. Just see what they say. Then get curious with those questions I shared earlier and decide what will work best for you and your child. 

I hope you find this information about progress book or similar tools insightful and it gets you thinking about how you want to show up with these tools that we have at our disposal. Technology can be great but with everything, we have to intentionally decide how to incorporate it into our lives. 

We’ve got this parents!!! One day at a time!

“The pressure on kids is high to get good grades. In my time, no one cared about it. My father looked at them but he didn’t really make much fuss about them.”

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

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