Two Incredible Tips for Parents of Underachieving Overachievers

underachieving overachievers

Are you a teacher or a parent with a highly capable and intelligent child whose motivation seems to have simply disappeared? Or perhaps they’re still working hard on their homework and studying, but they don’t turn in their homework? It’s an incredibly puzzling experience – why would a child stop being motivated or complete their homework but choose to get a 0 on the assignment? Becky Newquist, MSW, LCSW shines some light on this very salient and confusing trend that she has been seeing in children and teenagers. The answers will seem so obvious to you, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t realized it yourself!

To recap, Becky explained that evaluation of one’s work can translate to evaluation of one’s self-worth. If a child or teenager would rather avoid opportunities where he/she could be evaluated, they may choose to not participate or not turn in assignments as a result. So Becky recommends the two tips below to help your child or teenager overcome this pattern:

  1. Focus on the process rather than the outcomes:
    • Get curious about your child or teenager’s experience! Ask questions about school and their studying process, from a curious place, not a judgmental one. Ask about the teachers they like, the classes they like, what makes these things likeable? Or what makes the classes or teachers they don’t connect with well challenging?
    • Focus less on the grade or outcome, this may be the source of stress they are working hard to avoid.
  2. Determine if there is a problem to be solved or coping to be implemented
    • There may be a need for intervention or changes, and that is completely valid. You may need to find out if there’s something occurring that is preventing your child or teenager from going out for their sport or activity or turning in their homework. Is there a bully in class that the teacher is unaware of? Are their peer issues going on that your child or teenager doesn’t want to confront when he/she joins a certain club or sport? Does he or she need more skills around time management or organization? If so, there is help and there are solutions!
    • If there is no “problem” that can be solved, it may be a matter of implementing some skills around emotion-focused coping. Could your child or teenager talk to a friend or a teacher to help them de-stress? Could they use deep breathing or mindfulness in class to get present? Is there something they can do while in class to help them feel more safe or comfortable? A counselor is an excellent supplement or resource to teach your child or teenager these skills!

If you found this post valuable or helpful, please consider sharing with a parent or teacher you know! We will also include a list of additional resources on parenting adolescents below, as well as Becky’s contact information. Thanks for joining us!

Becky Newquist

Becky Newquist, LCSW


Becky is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works in private practice primarily with teens, young adults, and families. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Becky has spent much of her 11 year career focused on bridging the divide between mental health and faith communities as a therapist, crisis evaluator, youth ministries director, and faith-based mental health non-profit board member. Becky has a passion for helping individuals discover and develop an abundant life worth living through the integration of spiritual, emotional, mental and relational domains.

Becky’s Resources

Staying Connected To Your Teenager: How To Keep Them Talking To You And How To Hear What They’re Really Saying

Keeping Adolescence Healthy: Exploring the Issues Facing Today’s Kids and Communities

Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings

Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers

Parenting Teens With Love And Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed

Contact Becky:

​Bethel Counseling, LLC

2084 S Milwaukee St

Denver, CO 80210

(P) 720-325-2627

(E) becky@bethelcounseling.com

(W) www.bethelcounseling.com

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