As a parent or teacher, it is very frustrating to have children who are not achieving, especially when the child has a lot of potential, such as with a gifted student. There are various causes for underachievement, some of them are listed below:
· Undiagnosed learning disability
· Either unchallenging or newly challenging environment
· Peer pressure, fitting in
· Family dynamics
· Perfectionism (see tab on this topic)
· Attention deficit
· Low self esteem
There are 2 main avenues for reversing gifted underachievement, either counseling or instruction. Counseling relies on changing the personal or family characteristics, while instruction focuses on different types of learning activities, having choice and freedom and having smaller student to teacher ratios (Reis and McCoach, 2002).
What Can I do?
As much as we would like a clear answer for what we should do when working with an underachieving child, it is not a one size fits all solution, since each child is unique. Below are some tips to help support gifted students, especially when a pattern of underachievement is recognized.
· Perfectionism (see tab for further information)
· Guide them to take risks, it’s okay to make a mistake, we learn from experiences that do not go as planned
· Having a strong self-concept is critical, help them recognize their successes and persevere through challenging activities
· A strong family foundation is important – set high expectations that are reasonable
· Praise your child for their hard work and effort instead of for personal characteristics (ie “You persisted through the challenges on that assignment” instead of “You’re so smart.”)
· Fair but consistent consequences should be in place
· Celebrate success
· Target student strengths and interests
· Consistently provide challenging content
· Students need to take advantage of opportunities to revise and learn new information
· Help them set goals and learn to self-monitor
Use the school support network. If you suspect a learning disability may be interfering with your child’s academic potential, talk to their teacher about it. We all want our children to see success, so it is important we work together in achieving that goal.
Del Siegle & McCoach, D.B. (2002). Promoting a positive achievemenet attitude with gifted and talented students. In Neihart, M., Reis, S.M., Robinson, N.M., & Moon, S.M., The social and emotional development of gifted children (pp 237-250). Washington, DC: Prufrock Press, Inc.
Reis, S.M., & McCoach, D.B. (2002). Underachievement in gifted students. In Neihart, M., Reis, S.M., Robinson, N.M., & Moon, S.M., The social and emotional development of gifted children (pp 81-92). Washington, DC: Prufrock Press, Inc.
Robbins, S.H. (2012). The everything parent’s guide to raising a gifted child. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
Walker, S.Y. (2002). The survival for parents of gifted kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirt Publishing Inc.