“I think he could do better if he applied himself a little more.”
“She doesn’t seem to be putting any effort into her schoolwork.”
“I know they are capable of better grades than this.”
If you have heard these or similar phrases from your child’s teachers, you are one of the many parents dealing with an underachieving student. Children who consistently perform below their abilities are often known as underachievers. In the case of most underachievers, both parents and teachers know it is possible for the student to do better than their grades, tests, or classwork reflects.
Dealing with underachieving children can be extremely frustrating as parents; many struggle to find ways to motivate their children without becoming locked in an endless power struggle. While there is no quick fix or easy solution to motivating an underachiever, the following tools can help parents get through to their children and change their habits for the better.
Rule out other issues
Whether your child has always struggled in school or their academic performance has taken a recent turn for the worse, it’s important to rule out any other issues. Major life transitions such as the addition of a new sibling or changing schools can negatively impact both grades and behavior. Likewise, ongoing academic issues can be based on learning disabilities such as ADD or dyslexia. Having your child evaluatedfor learning disabilities or hearing and vision problems can ensure there are no other issues impacting their academic performance and motivation.
Reflect on past successes – and failures
Even young children can be surprisingly introspective when evaluating their past academic performance. Discuss a time when your child was successful, such as getting an A on a test or getting a major project completed on time; what did they do to get it done? How could they replicate it again? Likewise, having your child discuss what they struggle with allows you to work together to create a plan that maximizes the chance of being successful in school.
Earn everything every day
No matter how often your child responds with “I don’t care,” there is something that motivates them; cell phones, video games, television, sports practice, or time with friends. All be powerful motivators for children. Allow your unmotivated child to earn privileges or rewards every day by completing homework or chores. This gives them numerous opportunities to be successful – as well as numerous opportunities to try again tomorrow.
Stop arguing, shouting, or complaining
Parenting underachieving or unmotivated children can be extremely frustrating; unfortunately, venting these frustrations often has the opposite of the desired effect. Arguing, shouting, complaining, and begging are harmful in two ways: first, it shows the child that they have all the power, and second, it can damage a child’s low self-esteem. Instead, try implementing some of those tips above to motivate your underachieving student!