Director of Parent Engagement at Children's Museum of Richmond
Consider if your child is underachieving: Underachievers are often disorganized, dawdle, forget homework, lose assignments, and misplace books. They daydream, don’t listen, look out the window, or talk too much to other children. They have poor study skills—or none at all.
Did you know underachievers often have highly competitive feelings, but they may not be obvious? If they don’t believe they can win, they may quit before they begin, or they may select only those experiences in which they are certain of victory.
They want to be millionaires, professional football players, inventors of computer games, rock stars, Olympic gymnasts, or presidents, and they have magical ideas about the effort necessary to arrive at these unrealistic goals. They can’t build firm self-confidence because they haven’t learned perseverance or a real sense of effort.
These kids are bright kids. Reversing underachievement is more than just about achievement. It’s really about guiding children toward leading fulfilled lives.
Here’s where to start:
Explore your home first: Keep a log or develop a checklist of what happens at home around homework time. It is helpful to have objective descriptions of what is taking place so as to distinguish between problems caused by the child, by the school or by the family setting.
Use a homework planner to help students acquire organizational skills. Students need to be shown how to use the planner-which can be a small calendar, with pages divided into sections. Demonstrate where to write assignments, how to write them in shorthand, how to note that their assignments have been completed. Help students identify study times by filling in their other activities (e.g., meal times, scout activities).
Show students how to graph their homework completion in the planner. You can use Magic Markers to color green for completed assignments, yellow for late assignments, and red for assignments not turned in. Yellow became green or red depending on the child s followup. A sea of red ink speaks loud and clear to parents about their children s failure to complete homework assignments. A sea of green ink is cause for celebration.
Consequence reasonably but firmly if student doesn’t meet commitments.
What to do next:
FIRST: Sit down with your children two to three times per week. Have them point out the best things they did on their papers.
STEP TWO: Make sure your child describes to you the reasons for his or her success. As they put these into words, the reasons for the success will be imprinted on their brain, never to be erased. They will start to believe they are in control of their success.
STEP THREE: Work with your children on their mistakes only when they ask for your help. Let the school work on deficiencies. Teachers have training to help with the deficiencies in effective ways.
STEP FOUR: Be patient. This is a real change in operation. It will take the child a period of time to believe that this is not just a new phase his parents are going through. Look for the real benefits to show up in several months or maybe during the next few years, depending upon the child’s past history.