How Parents Can Help Kids Achieve in School

Did you know that there’s an actual medical diagnosis for “academic underachievement?”

Dr. Michael W. Cater, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician, has made this diagnosis occasionally for young patients who have high potential but just don’t do well in school.

Dr. Cater places a high priority on encouraging patients to succeed in school. He says that’s just as important as having a good physical report.

“As parents, it’s our responsibility to have high expectations for our kids if they have a normal mental capacity,” Dr. Cater says. “There should be consequences for not doing your homework and not doing well in school. You go to school to get an education. Parents need to be serious about this.”

To help parents help their children, Dr. Cater lists reasonable expectations for a healthy, intelligent student:

  • You do not miss class unless you are really sick.
  • You complete your homework every night.
  • You do not go out on a school night unless you can guarantee that you are prepared for the next day’s classes.
  • You limit your phone calls and TV watching.
  • You turn in all assignments, complete and on time.
  • You see that work and your social life do not interfere with your main job, which is school.
  • You do what you know is necessary to get the highest grades you can.

Dr. Cater believes students and parents often accept low grades too easily. Parents can help turn this around, he says.

Teens should be responsible for their schoolwork, but they often make bad choices too, he says. Because of this, Dr. Cater urges parents to insist on academic standards that they know their children can meet.

“The expectations of high school teachers are generally quite fair and attainable,” he says. “As a rule, to earn a good grade in a class a student is expected to do three things: show up, turn in their homework and put some time into that work.”

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