Child Is Underachieving

By Sylvia Rimm

June 6, 2014 4 min read

Q: I stumbled upon your website,, and immediately became engrossed in what you had to say. Can you please advise me on the best thing I should do for my 10-year-old son? His teacher and I believe he is underachieving. I tried your questionnaire about underachievement, and he seems to fit the bill. What should I now do?

A: You are surely observing the signs of underachievement in your son, and there could be many causes for his problem. You can probably start by arranging an appointment with your son's teacher. Her observations of his school behavior could provide insight and answers for you. For example, she might observe that he's having some problems with other students or that someone may be bullying him. She might also mention that more homework was expected this year than during past school years, or that the work is substantially harder than in the past. You might notice that his present teacher is firmer or less firm than former teachers.

Listening to what your son's teacher has observed might help you know how to address his problem. After hearing the teacher's perspective, it would be important for you to describe how you see your son's behavior at home. The teacher may make some immediate suggestions to get your son back on track.

If the teacher has observed a friendship problem, sometimes she may be able to easily handle it in the classroom. If he is finding the work too easy or too hard, the teacher could also be able to help your son adjust. You can also ask the teacher to arrange a comprehensive evaluation by the school psychologist. It would be helpful if your son could explain his problem, but often children don't really know what has gone wrong for them. Instead, they sometimes respond by avoiding doing work, forgetting to do assignments, losing them and becoming generally disorganized. "Boring" is often the word kids use to describe what they don't understand. Boring can mean things like "It's too easy or too hard," "I'm not the smartest kid in the class anymore," "I hate to write," "I think the teacher doesn't like me," "I can't pay attention," or "Video games are more fun." It could also be that a sister or brother at home is seemingly getting more attention.

The book I've written that could be helpful to your son is "Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It," and it's available on my website at If you are thinking about this after the school year is over, summer is an excellent time to arrange for an evaluation by a psychologist, so you can get a good start in the next school year.

For free newsletters about underachievement, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, social skills and/or bullying, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the address below.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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