Signs & Symptoms


Is your child earning bad grades?

Academic achievement is an important component of a child’s life. While you go to work each day, your child goes to school. Your work, whether in the home or in the office, becomes a part of your sense of self and your ability to contribute to the world.

Your child has the “job” of listening to the teacher, following classroom rules, and completing schoolwork. School participation also involves learning to be a part of a social community of peers, with exposure to sports, art, music, and other extracurricular activities.

Feedback comes in the form of grades. Just as you would know if you were not making the cut at work, your child will know whether he or she is not making the cut at school. It can be hard for a child to maintain interest and motivation in school if he or she is constantly failing. At these times, some children cope by disengaging.

A number of reasons could explain why school could be challenging for a child, and these reasons will be discussed below. As a parent, you will want to ensure that your child’s school experience is as positive as possible, and that your child’s family and community life is positive as well.

What do challenges with Achievement look like?

  • Having trouble in school?
  • Receiving poor grades?
  • Refusing to follow teacher directions?
  • Falling asleep in class?
  • Struggling to cope with challenges at home (divorce, family strife)?
  • Getting frustrated with homework?
  • Not on grade-level and not seeming to care?
  • Struggling to complete work in several subjects?
  • Often in trouble with the teacher?

Why is Achievement happening?

Clinically, several reasons can explain poor achievement in school. These reasons may include disinterest in school, attention and focus challenges, emotional struggles, social difficulties, low ability, environmental issues, or learning disabilities. One author of this article completed a dissertation on the relationship of child self-perceptions of performance in school and actual achievement. That study found, as you might suspect, that children know when they are performing poorly in school. Their academic self-efficacy or, whether they feel that they can do well in the classroom, has a significant impact on their performance. A child who is suffering from depression or anxiety is likely to have school struggles. Often very bright, or gifted kids will have a pattern of under-achievement. Gifted kids tend to stubbornly avoid non-preferred tasks, which can result in lower grades in school. Families who are suffering through traumatic circumstances, or in the midst of big changes are not often able to provide as much support or stability for learning at home. Sometimes, these situations are far beyond their own control. In these times, having nurturing role models at school, extra support, and second chances can help a child build a positive self-esteem which can aid in increasing achievement levels and school success.

How can I manage Achievement at home?

If you are wondering about your child’s school performance, first consider whether there are factors in your child’s life outside of school that may have an impact.

Recent changes at home: Consider any significant recent changes. Talk to your child in a calm and accepting way; work to understand how emotions and environmental variables may be having an impact.

Depression or emotional distress: If you suspect depression, find a therapist to work with your child. Make yourself available for love, comfort, and support (even if your child does not indicate that he or she wants it)

Physical problems: Make sure your child has a current physical; be sure there isn’t a medical cause for your child’s challenges. Children who have frequent illnesses, allergies, and poor eating or sleeping habits are likely to have concomitant learning challenges. In that case, teachers may notice that your child is lethargic, seems tired, or falls asleep in class.

Learning problems: If none these factors seem to be the root of your child’s learning challenges, it is well advised to talk with his or her teacher and school team about your concerns. Ask whether learning problems are evident in your child’s thinking and reasoning abilities, reading, writing, or math skills. If so, your school can evaluate these areas to determine if your child has a learning disability.

If you don’t get the support you want from your child’s school, consider seeking a private evaluation to see how your child is doing cognitively and academically, with a focus on social-emotional development.

Positive behavior: If your child does not have any disabilities that are impacting learning, supportive strategies can be employed at home. For example, you may work to develop age-appropriate and meaningful rewards.

Meet with the teacher for your elementary school-aged child and determine what rewards and motivators are present in school. Set up a simple reward system at home with privileges or treats earned with effort, such as listening to the teacher and completing assignments. This system should not be grade-based but effort-based.

Motivation: Although reward systems are generally helpful, it is important to remember what is at the heart of motivation: autonomy (choice). That is, although we can garner compliance through the use of reward systems, it is important to work hard to find intrinsic motivators that already exist within your child.

Entire books are dedicated to the subject of motivation, but we will skip to the punchline here. The way to create conditions that motivate our kids is to ensure the child has: autonomy, competence, and positive relationships.

  • Autonomy: Maybe your child does not want to do it your way. Allow your child to choose the times of day to study, the topics to research, and the approach to assignments
  • Competence: Individuals maintain motivation when they feel that they can do the task
  • Relationships: Individuals feel more motivated when they feel good about their relationship with the people involved in the activity. Your relationship with your child is the foundation that will guide him or her through these challenges at school. Make time each day to talk and do something fun that your child enjoys, regardless of what happened at school.

How can Clear Child Psychology help with Achievement?

If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his or her learning, relationships, or happiness, it’s time to seek professional help.

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Our Free Discovery Session is a 20-minute consultation where we can talk one-on-one about the concerns and questions you have about your child.

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Our Initial Consultation allows us to get a deeper understanding of your child’s needs and determine if an assessment is appropriate.

We Build a Customized Plan

Our Assessments allow us to determine your child’s specific strengths and challenges. We can use this information to develop a customized support plan which includes: referrals

We Connect you with the Right Professionals

Once we understand your child’s needs, we will help families get connected to the right specialists. No more guesswork, no more wasted time and resources.

We Provide Ongoing Coaching and Support

Our Coaching Packages allow us to continually support families as they continue their journeys. Parental coaching, life-skills practice, and school advocacy are just a few examples of ways we help.

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