She's Afraid of Letting You Down
If your child resists reading aloud when you're within earshot or doesn't want you to watch her swim practice, she may crave your approval but fear that she needs to do something perfectly to earn it. The result? Instead of trying harder, she might resist making an effort, explains Natalie Rathvon, Ph.D.. clinical professor of psychology at The George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. Some children would rather not try at all than risk failing. Being a perfectionist can hamper your kids achievement because she's overly concerned about the result rather than the process.
Help your child enjoy learning a new skill without fixating on the grade or the trophy. Say something like, I don't expect you to be perfect; I'll be happy as long as you always try hard and don't give up when you run into trouble. But don't just talk about how a strong effort and positive attitude can lead to success; let your child see you tackle a challenging work assignment or project around the house - and let her see you sweat a little. If she thinks everything comes easily to you, she'll figure that's how it's supposed to be.
He Hasn't Made All the Connections
Many kids procrastinate, do sloppy work at the last minute, or punt the assignment entirely. It's not because they lack ability; it's because the relationship between effort and outcome hasn't clicked. Although you know that fulfillment comes through accomplishment, children are still focused on fun. says Dr. Spevak.
Make sure that he completes homework and chores before he plays, to reinforce the concept that the fun part doesn't always come first - but it does come! Say, I know you want to build with the Legos, but first you have to spend 20 minutes reading your book or cleaning your room. Putting a time frame on his responsibilities will help keep him from rushing to the finish. You might even ask him to come up with a plan - it's good practice for his time-management skills, and he'll feel more in control.
She's Picky About What She Tries
She zips through her schoolwork and does really well at the things she enjoys but slacks off if the subject is difficult or not interesting. Doing the bare minimum in settings that aren't particularly challenging, especially for a bright kid or a natural athlete, may not raise a red flag now. However, it can become a real problem as kids get older and success requires a mix of natural ability and hard work.
If she's avoiding a subject, use a light touch when it comes to addressing the neglected homework. Say, Honey, I can't help noticing that these subtraction problems haven't been done. They look kind of lonely and unfinished, don't they? The benefit of using humor in these situations: It shows you aren't anxious; in fact, you are so confident she can learn and perform new tasks that you can be playful, says Dr. Rathvon. Your relaxed attitude also underscores that it's okay to try even when a perfect performance isn't assured, which will further build her self-confidence.
Could It Be an LD?
Poor grades, low scores on standardized tests, a disinterest in academics - all could point to a learning disability (LD), which often goes unnoticed until a child reaches school age. If you or your child s teacher suspect an LD, your school is required to provide evaluation, assessment, and a special learning plan. You can also consult an independent child psychologist to administer a test to pinpoint the problem. (Ask your pediatrician for referrals.) If your child has been diagnosed, the psychologist can work with you and your child's teacher to decide the best course of action. The important thing is to hold your child to his personal best, advises psychologist Ruth Peters, Ph.D.