Many students who struggle in school are called “lazy and dumb” by their peers and at some times even by a teacher or parent! This is extremely hurtful and unnecessary.

First of all, you cannot always tell whether a child is working really hard or not. Even if you ask a child whether they studied they will often tell you they didn’t. It is much easier for them to say, “I didn’t study, so I failed,” than to say, “I studied a long time, but I still failed.” There are children who have given up on themselves and quit trying, but be very careful about accusing any child of being lazy. You have no way of knowing for sure how hard they are working!

Secondly, these children are often smart. I have taught children whose measured intelligence was in the superior range (even at the 99th percentile) who failed in school! These brilliant children might not be able to read, spell or do math, yet their intelligence suggests that these things should be easy for them. Reading, spelling and doing math are acquired skills, not innate like intelligence. For one reason or another, they did not learn the skills they need to succeed.

As you can see, you can have a brilliant child who is failing in school because of poor skills. They might look “dumb,” but they are far from it. Skills and intelligence are not the same thing. I have a rule that I never, ever call a child lazy or unmotivated. I ask myself these questions—“Why is this child having such a hard time in school?” “What is holding this child back?” “What can I do to provide some success for this child to get them back on the right track?”

If you feel your child is misunderstood, it is important to get together with your child’s teacher. My next post will offer some help in deciding whether or not your child is working hard enough. Then after that, I will discuss how to plan ahead for meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss these issues.

Remember, when children struggle in school, they need both their parents and their teachers to work together to figure out why.