It was report time card last week at my boys’ school. This usually goes pretty well in our house, since two of my boys still are in the grade levels that hand out S, S+, S- and N. My oldest son, however, has been in a grade for the past couple years that doles out A, B, C, D and F.

All my boys have gone through times where they have struggled with some aspect of school, whether it’s just not doing their homework, forgetting their homework or just struggling in a certain subject. Invariably when these struggles have come, there has been some crying and a loss of privileges. This seems to be a hard lesson for both us as parents and our boys to learn.

Along with the hard lessons, there is always humor. Our oldest is good at trying to sugar coat things. He is a smart kid, but he doesn’t always try real hard, which I can relate to, since I was the same way. Last year, however, he had a C and a D+ on his report card.

Of course my husband and I were mad because he was smarter than the grades he was pulling. When we asked him about the C and the D+, his answer was that the D+ was practically a C so it wasn’t a big deal. We were also informed that he knew kids who had worse grades than he did, so we should be glad he did so well and we should be proud of him. We informed him that he was smarter than his grades showed and that he needed to try harder. We also told him that if we knew a C was the best he could do then we would be proud of him, but if he is capable of a B and instead gets a C then we were going to be disappointed.

Needless to say he was shocked that we weren’t thrilled with his grades. He was told he needed to do better, and he has. Sometimes, as a parent, you forget how much influence you can have on your kids.

Joy Larson is a mother of four boys, graduate of The University of Montana, animal lover and writer.