How to support an underachieving child

Boy studying
There are lots of ways to help an underachieving child. Find expert advice and tips on how to encourage them to develop in their weak areas here.
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When it comes to supporting an underachieving child, what you can do as a parent initially is rule out any physical or neurological causes for underachievement. Start with a full medical examination, including both eye and ear tests. If no physical problems are found, it’s then helpful to look for emotional, environmental, and family issues that may be causing or supporting underachievement by distracting the child from learning.

Once you’ve covered that, try the following tactics to support their development.

Unique learning styles

We don’t all learn in the same way. Some children will be comfortable researching information using books, others may find the interactive nature of the internet, videos, CDs or even interviewing someone suits them better.

It’s important that a child be given an opportunity to discover their learning style by exploring a variety or combination of ways to successfully accomplish a homework task or school project.

Personal interests

Can these be used to anchor a child’s interest in learning? We all have an interest that can hold our fascination. When this desire is stimulated – whether it’s steam engines or street dancing – we eagerly invest time and money to develop that interest.

Unfortunately, academia doesn’t always easily accommodate our interests but we can often find a way to harness that enthusiasm – for example, reluctance to read may be tackled by encouraging a child keen on football to read their favourite club’s season report.

Change the label

Finally, a child who is underachieving may simply have talents and abilities in areas outside traditional academics. They may excel as artists, sail boat builders, hair stylists, or mechanics.

The greatest gift we can give these different learners is permission to be themselves, and encouragement to follow their passions. It is important to replace the label of ‘underachiever' with ‘differently achieving’.

Remember that Albert Einstein was labelled as an ‘underachiever’ as a youth. His alternative vision of the world is one that has earned him an indelible place in history. Should we have any less faith in our own kids?