Underachieving Students with High Ability

There are many reasons why students who have high ability may also be underachievers.  As said in my previous blog, one reason could be a mismatch between the student and the school environment, such as an inappropriate curriculum, or a mismatch between the teacher’s style and the student’s way of learning, or possibly the teacher doesn’t challenge the student enough.  From a teacher’s perspective, it’s difficult to challenge low achievers in crowded classes, because the teacher must differentiate the course lesson for students who are at different levels of ability.  It can be overwhelming.

Ironically, high ability students with low grades, or those who have failed courses, are often placed in classes with academically challenged students where the curriculum is often uninspiring and slower paced.  Many parents are deciding to home school their child because of this situation, and in many cases, I believe it is a good option.  Underachievement is multi-pronged, and begins to show itself even at the elementary school level, where there may already be a lack of interest and focus, as well as an irresponsibility about doing homework and turning in projects.  Thus, it behooves schools, parents, educators, and administrators to take a very close look at the root causes of underachievement which seem to be epidemic in the US public school system.

Today, I would like to focus on another problem facing low achieving students with high potential – parental involvement, or lack of it.  According to research, a list of the most common characteristics of parents of underachievers is offered.  If you recognize any of these characteristics in yourself, it’s time to take a thoughtful look on how you can help your child by reversing some of these patterns. 

Lack of interest and indifference

A neutral or negative attitude toward education

A distant or long distance relationship with little affection or quality time

Parents who are inconsistent in their authority, or have different styles of child rearing, or who argue, or who can’t agree to compromise  An example could be a father who is authoritarian and restricts and controls the child – while the mother tries to compensate by allowing the child to cross boundaries, or makes excuses for inappropriate behavior and low academic achievement.  What do you do when your spouse or partner doesn’t parent the same way you do?  “One parent is predictably tired of being the bad guy all the time, and not only is it unhealthy for your relationship, it’s not good for your children who often use that lack of agreement to take advantage of the situation” says, James Lehman, MSW of Empowering Parents program.  He suggests  parents come up with a “cohesive plan to which you both adhere, because otherwise, your child may fall through the cracks.”

Overindulgent or overprotective parents   Some parents hinder their child’s ability to take responsibility or do anything independently.

Having too high expectations for the child   This contributes to the child’s lack of self-esteem when he / she can’t perform according to the personal rubric of the parents.

My next blog will offer some suggestions on how to help your child be responsible and stay academically on track.


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