Saturday, June 5, 2010


Dear Mr. Morton- I read your article in About Families magazine and wonder if you could help us. Our son is a bright teenager who has grown into a “social butterfly.” His grades have dropped to “D’s”. Why does he not achieve to his potential? - Frustrated

Dear Frustrated- Bright children become “underachievers” for many reasons. I’ve witnessed students take academic “nose dives” because of conflicts outside of school. For example, the anger, anxiety, and guilt following a parental divorce is often accompanied by unfinished homework and poor grades on tests. Even after initiating counseling aimed at restoring their enthusiasm, they may not get back on track for up to a year. Other students obtain secondary gains from underachieving. Some teens will purposefully commit academic suicide in the false belief that they’re calling the shots and are achieving independence: “My parents can restrict my social life, but they can’t make me learn!”

OUR PICKS! Great underachievement resources for parents & teachers
I’d also investigate who your son’s friends are and determine their attitude toward school and learning. Some teens stop doing well in school largely because they desire to fit into a group who dub good students as “geeks”. Parents lose track of how strongly their teens want to be liked and how easily they’re influenced by peer pressure. I would consult with your son’s guidance counselor and determine if his friends share classes with him. I recall one student who was “separated” from his friends when his class schedule was changed, for he had been disrupting the classes with them. Afterwards, he privately told his parents that he felt relief when the change was made and the peer pressure vanished. His grades improved.
Cutting your son off from his friends outside of school may backfire on you; instead, I’d encourage him to get involved in extracurricular activities that usually attract the better students.

Note: Scroll down right margin to code "(M) UNDERACHIEVING STUDENTS" for daily-updated newspaper and journal articles, plus videos, on this topic.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of School Psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership & Policy Studies at Bowling Green State Univeristy. A portion of Ad sale revenue from this site is donated to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Questions? Comment? Concerns about family, parenting, educational or personal concerns? Contact him on the secure Bpath Mail Form.