Let’s step into the shoes of an underachieving child who was born to overachieving parents. It should be nothing too hard, shouldn’t it? Well, the answer is a big fat NO. To understand the real issue, it is important to define a few terms in this context. Underachievement often relates to poor grades and weakness in demonstrating skills or other talents. Overachievement, on the other hand, is associated with high grades and the ability to show aptitude in different disciplines. So, how do overachieving parents end up with their children underachieving?

Reason #1: Lack of motivation

Children are often driven by the motivation to outperform their parents. This need not be taken in the wrong sense. Healthy competition, even with your own parents, is totally acceptable. It is even desirable whereby the child feels the need to go above and beyond to achieve better results. When there is nothing to surpass, what do you then work for?

Reason #2: No first left

At first, the child sets a goal of being the first graduate in the family. Next thing you know, the bar is lifted a little higher. The objective then shifts to being the first masters degree holder in the family. Again, the dream is crushed. The bar hits even higher this time. Where does this stop?  Soon enough, the child realizes there are no “firsts” left.

Reason #3: No need to impress

How do you impress parents who have achieved more than you probably ever will? This might not be completely true. But say that to a 15-year old who is yet to figure out what he wants in life. Without the need to impress parents, children are left with little motivation to achieve more than what is required of them. That is where you are likely to find students scoring the bare minimum.

What Can be Done?


In such cases, it is important that parents and children work together to remedy the situation. Overachieving parents have to start by accepting that such circumstances are for real. They may indeed be the cause of their children’s underachievement. That, in itself, is a big step. The parents have to find the right medium of communication to reassure their children of their self-worth. These children need to be reminded that they are valued, that their achievements are valued. Instead of being critical, overachieving parents should be more supportive and encouraging. The mere act of showing appreciation, as often as you can and as much as is needed, is going to go a long way.