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A Proven Way to Make Underperformers Do Much Better

A Proven Way to Make Underperformers Do Much Better

You know your child is smart. She exhibits intelligence every day, and family friends have remarked about how bright she is. But when report card day comes it’s like someone is evaluating a different child. What happened on the way to school? Did she travel into an alternate universe?

At first as the bad grades start to emerge, you think your child will pull out of it. You just need to help her with the homework, help her understand the concepts better. Yet your attempts to help are like banging your head against a wall. The will to perform is just not there.

You’re not alone. Plenty of children and teens are underperformers. Child psychologist Dr. Sylvia Rimm [1]says, “Underlying these children’s poor study habits, weak skills, disorganization, and defensiveness is a feeling of a lack of personal control over their educational success.” Some kids just don’t feel personally invested in getting good grades.

This is becoming a real problem because your child isn’t learning what it means to work hard and succeed at something. School is “boring,” the teachers “suck,” the other kids are “jerks.” You’re pulling teeth just to get her to finish and turn in assignments, and when test time comes, it seems like she’s tanking on purpose.

If your child doesn’t learn how to perform up to her potential in school, how will she be able fulfill that potential in real life?

The key is to connect your child’s educational goals to her life through strategy, affirmation, and rewards.

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Introduce Values-Based Self-Affirmation

Stress is a huge factor for kids in school. You can remember what it’s like, but there’s nothing quite like being there. Values-based self-affirmation [2]is a proven method of confronting stress and empowering your child to cope with it positively.

In multiple studies, African-American and Latino American students thought about and wrote about what was most important to them. These students face a lot of stress due to their minority status, and it causes them to underperform. They wrote about their values at critical times of stress during the school year—at the outset, before tests, and around holidays.

The students saw a 30 percent improvement in performance, and their grade-point averages were much higher than students who didn’t do values-affirmation assignments. This also worked for female college students in physics.

Brain scans [3] show that self-affirmation increases activity in the self-related and reward-related areas of the brain. Values affirmation also reduces cortisol response [4]in students, effectively lowering stress levels and heart rate.

Sit down with your child when she’s feeling stressed out about school and ask her to write about what she values—her relationships, her interests, her passions. Ask her to write a little bit about how her values relate to her future. Do the exercise with her, and keep it up as the school year continues.

Adopt Strategies that Work for Professionals

The people who teach and tutor for a living and do it well depend on engaging their students. Chances are you may be pushing your child away from performing well by putting on pressure and expectations that aren’t necessarily helping your child engage with the material.

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To take advantage of strategies for engaging underperforming students [5]

Make it relevant: Talk about and show your child how school subjects
apply to things she really likes—e.g., her favorite movie had a scriptwriter
who learned reading comprehension in English class, an actress who got
good enough grades to go to art school, an accountant who learned how to
crunch numbers in math class

Make it engaging: If there are any subjects your child is doing well at, or at
least making an effort to understand, praise their effort; ignore the negative
and focus on the positive—it’s proof she can make an effort with other
things, too

Focus on emotion: How does it feel when your child does well at
something? How does it feel when she blows it off and performs poorly? Ask
open-ended questions

Note what stimulates her intellect: Pay attention to the intellectual
challenges she does want to tackle, as they may be much more difficult than
what she’s getting at school; think about ways you can connect under-
stimulating challenges to those that stimulate her

Don’t forget physicality: This can come in the form of rewards she can
touch and feel, or punishments that take away physical livelihood; it can
also be an interactive, physical method of learning

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Create structure: Your child needs you to model organization and
structure; craft a homework routine and stick with it

Focusing on these strategies will help you align with what her teachers are doing at school. Talk to her teachers and ask what strategies they’re using the most. Find out if they’ve seen any bright spots, any moments when your child has been engaged. Request regular updates about any sort of positive engagement, and focus on that engagement in conversations with your child.

Follow Through with Rewards

Self-affirmation will help your child understand she can do it. Now it’s time to seal the deal.

Your child’s everyday life is full of stimulus. Her interactions with friends are rewarding, entertainment is rewarding, technology is rewarding, even exercise is rewarding. All of these things cause her brain to release stimulating chemicals.

Interactions with her boyfriend and close friends cause her pituitary gland to release oxytocin [6], a hormone related to social bonding. Her experiences with entertainment, technology, and any sort of stimulating substances cause her brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter directly linked to motivation and rewards. Dopamine release is heightened in teens [7], causing them to take risks even when they’re aware of the consequences. And exercise stimulates the release of endorphins [8] .

If there’s no stimulus involved in doing well at school, chances are your child is bored and doesn’t connect schoolwork to reality. And with good reason: when we do work and do it well, we get a paycheck. Why shouldn’t it be the same with school?

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You don’t necessarily have to pay your child for getting A’s, but it doesn’t hurt. Here are some ways to offer rewards:

Pay attention: Positive attention from you is a reward—it’s a social
stimulus; pay heightened attention to academic life, delve deep, ask
stimulating questions

Involve her in a study group: This is a way to connect social life to
schoolwork; talk to her friends’ parents about setting up a group

Offer concrete rewards and don’t avoid punishments: A study group is
all fine and good, but what if they don’t do any work? Use a favorite activity
as reward for work completed, and remove privileges when she
underperforms

Underperformers need consistent rewards to connect academic performance to their everyday livelihood. They’re smart enough to do well in school, but they’re at a time in their life when the only thing that matters is having fun. Rewards may sound old-school, but they work.

Author’s note: How do I know rewards work? When I was in school, my parents consistently paid me for every A and B on my report card. I graduated from high school with a 3.98 GPA.

Need some more advice? Your child may be withdrawing from school because it’s too much for her—there are bullies, deadlines, pressure to make friends. There are a lot of fear-inducing factors. Here’s a list of books to help make school less scary . The more interested and less afraid of school your child is, the better she’ll be at executing a great academic performance.

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind How to Get Through Tough Times When You Are in Despair

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Last Updated on February 1, 2019

How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful

Self awareness can be defined as having a clear understanding of your personality, including your beliefs, emotions, motivation, strengths and weaknesses.

A 2010 study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that self awareness is a key and common characteristic of successful leaders. [1]

And research[2] by the Driehaus College of Business at De Paul University has also demonstrated that high self awareness leads to improved team performance.

Self Awareness Makes You Improve Much Faster Than the Others

“If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.” – Ralicoph Waldo Emerson

Self awareness allows us to understand who we are, and how others see us. From this, we can determine how similar or different we are to other people.

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Individuals with high self awareness tend to live happier and more fulfilling lives. That’s because being self aware brings several powerful benefits, including:

  • Finding and expressing your authentic self.
  • Being proactive, instead of reactive.
  • Enjoying positive and harmonious interpersonal relationships.
  • Having deeper thoughts.
  • Revealing your true purpose.

One secret behind the magic of self awareness, is the fact that being self aware allows you to see your weaknesses. Once you know what they are, you can then act accordingly to fix them (where possible).

As an example, think back to a time when you achieved a major success in your life. Your confidence jumped off the scale, and suddenly, everything in your life began to look rosy. However, success was fleeting, and before long you were not only back where you started – but had lost your initial faith and confidence too.

Instead of seeing this as bad luck or personal failure, the better response would be to analyze exactly what happened.

What caused your success? What caused your failure? And what could you have done differently?

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By answering these questions, you’ll gain insight into your decision making and personality traits. Most importantly, you’ll be able to discover where you went wrong, and how you could avoid this next time around. This is how self awareness becomes a crucial partner in reaching your dreams and goals.

How to Increase Your Self Awareness

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” – Lao-Tze

Okay, you’ve now seen some of the ways that self awareness can boost your success in life. (And we’ve only scratched the surface of potential benefits.)

It’s now time to reveal several tips and techniques that will increase your self awareness.

Take a psychometric test: You’ll understand more about yourself

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Psychometric tests are ideal for raising your self awareness. The tests force you to think deeply about yourself, and how your react to different situations. Self reflection = Self awareness. Try this free, 100-question psychometric test offered by the University of Cambridge.

Keep a personal journal: It can reduce anxiety and depression at the same time

Writing a daily journal can be a great tool for increasing your self awareness. If your writing is honest and open, you’ll quickly discover things about yourself that you’d never previously realised. You’ll also begin to see how habits create your conditions. For self awareness purposes, your daily journal should (at the very least) list your biggest failures and greatest successes of the day. Science supports the effectiveness of journalism, with a recent Psychotherapy Research study[3] showing that writing a daily journal reduced anxiety and depression.

Learn to meditate: To clear your thoughts

If you’ve never tried meditating before, then you should definitely consider trying it, if you want to boost your self awareness. Meditation can help you to delve below the incessant chatter of your conscious mind, and instead, let you tap into the depths of your subconscious mind. As well as boosting your well-being and health, meditation can clear your thoughts, and help you to become more creative.[4]

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How to get started? There are plenty of books and videos that can teach you the basics of meditation. Alternatively, you’ll be sure to find mediation classes in your local area.

Ask for feedback: You’ll be amazed

Choose a close family member or friend who knows you well. Ask then to give you an honest appraisal of your actions, beliefs and motivations. You’ll be amazed (and possibly shocked!) at what you hear. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll gain a completely new perspective on yourself. Use this new knowledge to make positive changes that could increase your effectiveness and success in life.

Through boosting your self awareness, you’ll begin to see new, exciting opportunities for growth and success. You’ll also learn how others see you. This will help your interpersonal relationships – as well as your ability to read others.

Self awareness can help you predict the success of others. It can also help you predict your own success.

So, choose to follow in the footsteps of the highly-successful, and start developing your self awareness today.

Reference

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