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
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
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.