Q:

Our second-grader is a bright child with a great vocabulary. We thought that he'd do well in school. However, he does very little work and is being described by his teacher as an underachiever. How can we help him go back to the enthusiastic learner that he was in kindergarten? -- Puzzled

A:

Now is definitely the time to get your young son back on the right track. He will not be able to change his behavior by himself. You and his teacher will need to work together. Try to determine with the teacher why your son is not living up to his potential. Are his basic skills in reading and math strong? If so, he might need a greater challenge. If not, a tutor might be needed to correct any significant deficiencies.

Your son was an enthusiastic learner. What has changed? Is it the classroom environment? Are the days too regimented and curriculum too dull? Are you and the teacher focusing too much on grades and his intelligence rather than on his efforts to learn? Does he enjoy learning new things at home?

You and the teacher need to help your son recapture his enthusiasm for learning. Try to tie the schoolwork to his interests. Be aware that so much of being an underachiever is tied to children's perception of themselves. To be successful, they need to receive support for their efforts and feel valued as a person by both parents and teachers. They also have to have the underlying mind-set that their efforts can make a difference in everything that they do.

Changing an underachiever to an enthusiastic learner is not an easy task. Here are two books that might help you in this undertaking: "Bright Minds, Poor Grades" by Michael D. Whitley, and "The Unmotivated Child" by Natalie Rathvon.