Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Responding to Change

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My seven-year-old son is very bright. He scores very high on tests and receives top grades in school. This past year, though he loves school and his teacher, his motivation has gone out the window. His work is sloppy, he only wants to do the bare minimum, and his reading skills have gone down. What should I do?

A: Has something changed in your son's life? A sudden change in behavior or school work is usually related to something specific that has happened, such as a change in the family (separation or new baby, for example). Has he changed friends? Perhaps he is friendly now with some children who tend to not work as hard as your son and he is copying them.

Talk with the teacher to find out what he or she has noticed. Ask the teacher to help you focus on the positive so that you can help with your son's motivation. The teacher can send you a daily note to let you know how his day was and you can follow up at home. A smiley face for the day can earn extra computer time or an extra bedtime story, and three smiley faces in a week can earn having a friend over to play on the weekend.

You may want also to rule out a physical problem. Sometimes a sudden change in a child can be related to nutrition or an illness, and you may want to talk with your pediatrician to make sure this could not be part of the problem.

Talk with the school counselor. He or she may be able to give your son some individual time or include him in a small group. The counselor may also be able to observe in the classroom to give you an objective opinion on what may be happening with your son.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks