Addressing Academic Underachievement
Parents often complain about their children’s grades as they often do not reflect their son or daughter’s potential. My thoughts are this: by the time they reach high school, their work ethic is fairly developed. If parents have done a decent job of encouraging schoolwork, providing assistance, and getting involved at the elementary school, kids will internalize the important of school and increase their self esteem when their grades reflect their efforts. Assuming this is the case, by the time teens enter high school, they have gained the skills of time management, learned appropriate study habits, and determined their strengths and weaknesses.
I hear far too often that grades are micromanaged by the parents of the high schooler. This does two things which in my opinion do far more damage than necessary; 1) potentially demonstrates to the teenager that grades are more important to the parent than they are for the student and 2) reduces the trust between parent and teen. I would prefer parents check online grades with their son or daughter (not behind their backs) at about the first progress report of ninth grade. This will again role model the importance of grades and illustrate a useful tool to keep track of one’s grades.
If there are any surprises, the parent should brainstorm different options (e.g teen or parent speaking with/emailing the teacher, getting a tutor, or finding someone in the class to study with). After 9th grade, the student should have a good idea as to how to keep up with their grades and if not I suggest conversations involving solutions-most talks could be resolved within 15 minutes. (The second a lecture ensues, the teen turns off their listening skills and just waits for it to be over).
Mental illnesses such as trauma, depression, anxiety, and self esteem can affect grades as well. It is hard to focus on the War of 1812 if you’ve suffered a family tragedy and difficult to make flash cards if your parents are arguing all the time. Additionally, learning disabilities can affect a teen’s school performance. If there is a pattern to your child’s academic records, there are professionals who can test your child to rule out an organic reason as opposed to a behavioral one.
Regardless of the reason for academic underachievement, there are solutions and professionals who can help (tutors, psychologists, study groups, teachers and/or educational therapists). With a proper support network, your child can thrive and feel confident throughout high school and beyond! Should you need a referral for the aforementioned in Thousand Oaks or Westlake, please contact me as I often collaborate with many in the area.
Thanks for reading!
– Gretchen Mayer, LCSW