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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Underachieving Children - Motivating to Achieve the Best

By Andrew Loh

What is underachievement?

..... “Poorer than expected performance” - Princeton University

.....“Underachievement occurs when a child's performance is below what is expected based on the child's ability.” - Carol Bainbridge

The term “underachievement” is one of the popular terms that are used by schools, parents and teachers. However, it means many things to different people. Previous studies have indicated that almost all humans use just a small percentage of their brain ability. In other words, none of us are perfect when it becomes to achieving to fullest of our potentials. In nutshell, all of us are underachievers and lag behind in our abilities to study and achieve something.

In the realm of children, the issue of “underachievement” could have a serious connotation. Many children, who fall under this category of learning, display a marked gap between their innate ability and what they can actually achieve in their classroom. The basic sign of underachievement usually starts very early in the school and it are likely to get serious as children grow older and enter older grades. In a sense, this type of underachievement could be degenerative and crippling.

However, most children who fall under this category may not work to their fullest potential. Just watch the class or school diary of these children and you will notice that there are comments by their class teachers on their classroom performance - “NOT UP TO THE MARK! YOU CAN STILL DO BETTER!” There might even be complaints and warning sent to parents about their children's not-so-satisfactory classroom performance. There might be a number of reasons for children not to perform better in their classroom.

Causes of underachievement among children

What causes underachievement in children? Are there any genetic parameters that play an active role? Do any extraneous factors lead to underachievement? Apart from medical and mental reasons that lead to underachievement in children (let us presume that these reasons are out of purview of this article series), a number of extraneous causes lead to underachievement in children. In many cases, the main cause of children not achieving to their full of their potential is “Children who are underachievers may not have learned the art of mastering the process of achievement.”

Underachievement among children might arise because of school, and home causes either in combination or as single reason as follows:

Possible causes from school

  • No challenging atmosphere in the classroom.

  • Excessive competition.

  • Absence of competition.

  • Teacher-student conflicts.

  • Some form learning disabilities.

  • Slow learning.

  • Too much peer pressure.

  • No visible opportunities to exhibit creativity.

  • Rigidity in school curriculum. Apparent mismatch between child's abilities versus school system.

Possible causes from home

  • Apparent disagreement or conflicts between parents.

  • Over protection by parents.

  • No love and affection by parents.

  • No attention paid by parents.

  • Health problems.

  • Conflicts between siblings.

  • Too much pressure by parents to show results.

  • Lack dedication by the child towards class work.

Most underachievers display the following signs

  • Disorganized and undisciplined.

  • They usually forget their homework, project work and classroom tests.

  • They do not complete their assignments.

  • They are untidy in maintaining their table, books and study materials.

  • They may never listen either to their teacher or to parents.

  • They are always inattentive and troublesome.

  • They may talk too much with their classmates or they may keep staring out of windows.

  • Their study skills are very disappointing.

  • They always come out with excuses and self-defense.

  • They feel that classrooms are boring.

  • They also feel that extracurricular activities are exciting.

  • Getting low grades will not deter them. In fact, they act impervious to low grades.

  • They may blame their teachers for their low grades.

  • They always have bigger dreams but never accept that they have to work hard to reach that position of greatness.

  • They may not recognize the value of true effort.

  • They are over-confident at times without sure of their effort and dedication.

  • They have greater goals to achieve but do not know how to work on them.

  • They do not know how to set realistic goals and they fail because of this inefficiency.

In effect, underachievers lack a sense of self-efficacy. In fact, underachievers are good students although they do not know about their real worth. Nor do they believe that they can become the best in the class. Parents and teachers may need to treat this condition as quickly as possible to streamline their personalities towards better classroom performance. Continue to read Leading Underachieving Children to Achieve Unlimited Classroom Success


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