Underachievement: Inspiring High Achievement

Underachievement: Inspiring High Achievement

This is the last in our three-part series on underachievement. In the first blog, we looked at how to motivate kids. Last week’s blog was about the perfect underachiever. This week’s blog focuses on how to instill a passion for learning in our kids.

We can't make kids excited about learning, but we can create homes and classrooms where they are inspired to develop this passion from the inside out. Do we desire kids who always require external motivation, or do we want our kids to be internally inspired to learn?

When we slide toward the cliff of trying to make kids into highly motivated students, we take on the task of trying to control someone else. Because we can only control our own behavior (which can be enough of a challenge itself) we find ourselves becoming more and more frustrated with the child and ourselves. It doesn't take long before all of this frustration pushes us toward counterproductive behaviors such as threats, lectures, punishment, begging, bribing, and taking more responsibility than the child for learning.

Inspiring high achievement is a puzzle of many pieces. An essential piece involves inspiring by modeling. That is, demonstrating our own excitement and commitment to four key achievement-essential values:

  • Curiosity
  • Willingness to take healthy risks
  • Perseverance
  • Awareness that paying dues earlier in life leads to more contentment later

These values are most effectively transmitted when our children overhear us describing our real-life experiences. Kids are far more likely to listen when we are talking to someone else just within earshot. They are also far more likely to internalize these lessons when they see that we are positive and passionate about the experience. At least once or twice a week let them overhear a story like the following:

I’ve always been so curious about the software that some people are using at work. It’s a bit complicated and I spent most of Monday afternoon trying to get it to work and couldn’t. It’s taken me all week to figure out how to create the spreadsheets correctly, but it seems like I’m starting to get it. I felt like giving up, but now I see how great it’s going to work. That’s exciting! I guess it’s like everything else. If it’s worth doing, and it makes life better, it’s probably going to be a bit tough in the short term.

Whether at home, in the classroom, or in an online class, successfully motivating our kids and students comes down to modeling and building positive relationships with our kids and students. This will help them take the risks required so that they can learn that perseverance and hard work will give them a great sense of accomplishment.

We hope that you enjoyed this blog series on underachievement and hope that it has given you some ideas that you can implement with your underachieving student.


Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

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