This sign can be hard to spot since it goes against the way most people think about learning and achievement. Any child might have a bad day, get a bad grade, or just not do very well. This sign gets at something a little different.
Youngsters’ performance and achievement are fairly consistent over time and across the board. If your child gets A’s and B’s in some subjects, it is unusual for him to get D’s and F’s in other subjects. Here, attention is on basic subjects such as Science, English, History, Math, Social Studies, and the like. Subjects such as Music, Physical Education, and Shop sometimes do not show the same pattern, although they usually do. Getting D’s and F’s usually does not go with getting A’s and B’s. If the pattern for your child is not consistent, there is often a problem needing attention.
For example, Renee was in the seventh grade and was a good student. She always had trouble with Math; but this year, she started failing Math. Her other grades were fine. She was told she was not paying attention and was not trying hard enough. Also, Math was just harder for girls or so the argument went. The message was to tell her it was her fault.
Her parents did not accept these explanations and looked for other reasons. As it turned out, there were three problems. First, she was now in Middle School and was a little overwhelmed. The work included some beginning Algebra and she was afraid to ask her teacher for extra help. Next, she had a habit of being a little sloppy and was not keeping numbers and other symbols aligned on her paper. This was causing her to become confused. Finally, she believed boys were better at Math than girls and thought she was just not a good Math student. The result was failure.
With a little extra help and some additional attention to neatness, her Math grades went up to B’s. This was a big improvement.
There may be many reasons for this problem. Some subjects emphasize reading more while others emphasize thinking and discussion. Some are more visual and others are more mental. Some add to knowledge and skills your child already has while others add new ideas and require new skills. When you see a big difference in how your child does from one subject to another, work with your child to figure out why. The real problem is likely not his fault.
This sign also comes up with activities away from school. How well youngsters do most day-to-day things is usually consistent from activity to activity. Do not count exceptional talents such as music and playing ball. Be concerned if your child usually does average or above in most things and has a few things he does badly.
What do the activities where he has trouble have in common? Your child’s trouble likely has something to do with one or more of the common elements. It might be eye-hand coordination, working in groups, getting organized, or something else.
If you watch closely and give some thought to it, the problem can usually be spotted. This gives you a chance to give your child some extra help. It also gives you a chance to point him toward activities where the problem does not get in the way so much. You want him to spend most of his time doing what he does well. He needs success as much as he needs to improve his skills.