Q: How can a parent figure out if the child's lack of achievement is due to parenting issues or a child's diagnosed "slow processing" or other learning issues?
A: Your question is one that I struggle with each time I meet with families at the Family Achievement Clinic. I've written a book about it called "Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades And What You Can Do About It" (Great Potential Press, 2008). While I think the book would be very helpful to you, let me at least summarize the 10 issues I watch and listen for in my clients. Parents don't have to be perfect, but when two or three of these top 10 things go wrong, it causes children to underachieve in school. Sometimes life events will help underachievers reverse their underachievement; sometimes they underachieve for life. I call them "My Top Ten" list, so I'll list them here for you:
1. High, but not too high, expectations
Parents should believe their children can be very good students but not set them up for feeling the need to be the smartest in the class or school. As children achieve more and more, they can gradually increase their expectations. In that way, children gradually develop confidence without feeling impossible pressure.
2. A work ethic
Children who believe that work is a good thing and understand the relationship between hard work and good results are more likely to be life-long achievers. If they believe they can easily and magically achieve by just being lucky, they are in trouble.
3. Competitive resilience
All children love to win and all should have winning opportunities. Achieving children need to be resilient when they lose so they don't see themselves as losers but only as needing to try harder or learn differently next time. They need to understand that all successful people also experience losing.
4. Disabilities or attention problems
Sometimes these can be minor and hard to identify, like processing speed, or sometimes they can be major, like processing speed. Yes I did say that twice. If a child is a very slow worker, it's much more problematic than being a little slower than others. Also, there are reading, math and writing disabilities than cause major problems. School programs can be adjusted for children to learn and feel successful.