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Help for the underachiever

Insight into the underachiever dilemma

Insight into the underachiever dilemma

Prior to the 1950s, there is no record of the word “underachiever.” Most parents would agree the concept has grown and broadened in the ensuing decades, particularly recently. Thankfully, terms like “emotional intelligence” and “soft skills” (i.e. innate “people skills” that can’t be taught, but are extremely useful) have entered the lexicon, conveying some value on “intelligence” that can’t be measured academically or through an IQ test. These have joined “street smarts,” “horse sense,” and “common sense.”

If you feel your child falls into “underachiever” status, Armin at offers a guide that can help clarify if your child is, indeed, in that category, and if so, possible remedies to get them operating at their highest potential.

But first things first: Armin offers a list of problems that can be attributed to a child’s performance that have nothing directly to do with the child or their ability. They are:

  • There’s not enough of a challenge
  • There’s too much or too little competition
  • He’s having conflict with one or more of his teachers
  • He has an unidentified/undiagnosed learning disability
  • There’s a mismatch between his preferred learning style and what’s possible given the limits of online education in the COVID-19 era
  • He’s feeling a lot of pressure from his peers
  • He doesn’t have enough opportunities to be creative
  • There’s too much—or too little—structure in the classroom
READ MORE: Child Behavior: Is your child an underachiever?

Also, underachievement may also be caused by factors within the home, such as:

  • Conflict between parents
  • High levels of stress in the home (which are almost guaranteed these days)
  • Overtly protective parents
  • Parents’ unrealistically high expectations or demand for perfection
  • Low expectations from the parents (this is clearly not the case for you, but in families where the parents don’t care, the children have no motivation to work hard and achieve)
  • Health problems
  • Sibling rivalry

What to do? Mr. Dad offers a few suggestions:

  • Communicate regularly with your child’s teacher about the problem.
  • Communicate regularly with your child. In a non-judgmental way, ask your child how things are going and whether he thinks he’s doing his best work. If he agrees that he isn’t, ask what he thinks he’d need to improve his grades.
  • Listen carefully. If your child needs a little help with organization, help. If he needs more (or fewer) reminders about homework and projects, adjust accordingly. If he needs a tutor, get one. If he needs incentives and rewards, think of ways to provide them (but stay away from bribery)
  • Join a parent support group for gifted children and encourage your child to participate in activities that involve other gifted children.
  • Arrange for an evaluation by a school- or private psychologist who specializes in helping underachieving children.
  • Continue to encourage your child’s interests, regardless of the level of school success.
  • Adjust your expectations if necessary. Even gifted children have limits.
  • Never, ever give up on your child.

That last one is the most important. Never give up on your child!

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