“It’s not your kids’ fault when they do poorly in school,” proclaimed a radio ad focused on the guilt felt by parents when their children bring home a poor report card. The announcer asserted, probably correctly, that no child goes to school intentionally wanting to fail. Kids flourish when they have the appropriate academic skills, competencies they could acquire if only their parents spent money enrolling them in a special tutoring program.
This may be an effective way to sell a product, but it doesn’t represent the reality as to why most kids do poorly in school. Every child cannot be an above average performer. Some youngsters just don’t have the ability to excel academically. This doesn’t make them inferior children or doom them to a terrible life. These kids just need to find and live their passion in a way that is consistent with their abilities.
Other youngsters struggle in school because of a learning disability. Teachers are usually very good at identifying these kids, and remedial instruction can be very successful with these students.
However, the uncomfortable truth is that many children perform poorly in school because they are simply lazy! If feels uneasy to label our children in such a derogatory way, but it is the most honest and helpful way to understand why so many children do not achieve to their potential.
We are all lazy at times, so it should be easy to understand why some kids would rather play a video game than work at solving algebraic equations. Psychologists rarely talk about laziness but rather view such behavior as a deficit in self-control. Kids with a high degree of self-control are able to anticipate the long term benefits of sacrificing something that feels good today for the sake of something better tomorrow.
Self-control is one of the most important skills you can teach your child. The benefits extend beyond the classroom and relate to everything from maintaining a healthy lifestyle to forming successful interpersonal relationships. Exerting self-control often seems to go against a culture that focuses more on immediate gratification and impulsive action, rather than on thoughtful and planned behavior. “Just Do It” may sell sportswear for Nike, but it’s not a healthy way to live your life.
How do you manage a lazy student? Set and enforce reasonable standards of behavior. Make privileges such as computer or cell phone usage contingent upon obtaining certain grades. With internet access to grades now common in many schools, it’s easy to set up a weekly system whereby privileges are dependent upon grades obtained during the week.
Parents also need to accept the fact that they cannot control the outcome of their children’s lives. Unlike the assertion in the radio ad, poor grades are indeed the responsibility of our kids, not us.