Depending on where you live, the school year has already ended, it’s ending this week, or it soon will. What messages and goals do you want your children to be thinking about now?

Even if it wasn’t an excellent academic year, I hope you want to encourage them. With a negative tone of voice, you could proclaim, “Next year better be better!!” Will that make it be? No. It will just remind children they disappointed you again.

I’m not suggesting you lie and announce, “You had a terrific year!” if your children didn’t. This can communicate to them that you really don’t know them very well. This will sadden them and weaken your influence. Or, if they believe you, they won’t think about working smarter and doing better next year because you appear more than satisfied.

So, what can you do?

Asking your children how satisfied they are with how the year went may be a good first step. You’ll find out if their ability to self-evaluate is growing. And, you’ll discover if they’ll agree with any positives or negatives you’re thinking of bringing up.

For instance, if your son is relieved he earned a B in algebra and you were about to indicate your concern it’s not an A, you might want to wait. Or, you might want to ask a few questions before sharing your disappointment. You might determine it’s best to not say anything negative at all.

If your daughter is very excited with her A in science, it’s not necessary to talk about her C is history in the same conversation. Celebrate her A!

As a part of these conversations, you might want to talk about possible goals for next year. What do they want to accomplish? What do they want to be involved in? Therefore, what, if anything do they want to do this summer so they’re ready for the next academic year? What do you believe would be wise? (Some children will do well with this conversation immediately after the school year ends. With others, they’re so grateful their summer has started that you might want to wait a week or two to have this conversation.)

When you do share compliments and joy about what went well, be specific and accurate. In what ways did your children genuinely improve? Their perseverance for long-range projects? Their responsibility for their own learning? Their creativity? Their accuracy in math? Their completeness on essays? Their acceptance of children who are different? Their attitudes toward music?

If you believe it’s necessary, do the same for what didn’t go well – be specific and accurate. When pointing out the negatives, do so in such a way that you communicate realistic expectations for the future. But, think about whether it’s necessary to even talk much about your concerns now. Children know where they’ve struggled. It’s rare that they’re not aware how they’ve disappointed you. So, if you want to talk about these things, think first about your goals. Can you encourage them while talking about your concerns? If not, wait.

Make sure to talk about strengths and concerns, as appropriate, in all areas. Spiritual growth. Academics. Fitness/Health/Athletics. Artistic endeavors. Clubs and activities. Behavior. Friendship. Character. Emotional health.

If you share personal strengths and concerns for some of these areas and any goals you have for the summer, the conversation can go better. Try it. How do you want to grow? Could you grow together? That would be great!