How to Spot an Underachiever

Question: I suspect that my daughter, who is in the seventh grade, is not working up to her potential. How can I tell if she is an underachiever? - Jump Start Needed

Answer: Interestingly, parents are often the first to recognize that their child is an underachiever. Such students can be described as those who do schoolwork that is below their ability-level. They can be found at every grade level. Some are gifted, while others are learning disabled.

Students don't become underachievers overnight. The signs may be there as early as kindergarten. However, they might not truly cause problems until children reach middle school or high school. Remember, all children exhibit some of the same signs that underachievers do. This does not mean that they are or will become underachievers. Here are some signs that a middle-school underachiever might exhibit:

  • Has an "I don't care" attitude about achievement
  • Frequently described as lazy by teachers
  • Establishes friendships with those who are not doing well in school
  • Blames others for problems at school
  • Is easily discouraged
  • Is not motivated to do better through rewards and/or punishments
  • Tends to procrastinate beginning and completing tasks
  • Has difficulty organizing schoolwork
  • Is easily distracted or frequently distracts others
  • Forgets assignments, especially when more attractive activities are possible
  • Does better in classes when continually held responsible for work
  • Does not work well independently, but performs well with one-on-one attention
  • Takes suggestions and advice as criticism
  • Describes teachers as mean and unfair
  • Complains of boredom and lacks capacity to entertain self
  • Intensely dislikes rules and regulations
  • Concentrates more and more on activities in which he or she is proficient

If your child exhibits most of these characteristics, further investigation is appropriate. He or she will need special help to get on the road to achievement.