You might think that smart kids have it all figured out, so there’s absolutely no excuse for declining attendance or grades. But, as someone who was identified as gifted in Grade 1, yet traded straight As for Fs by Grad 11, I can tell you it’s possible…

…but not because I was unmotivated, lazy, irresponsible, or stopped caring.

The Illusion of Ease
Smart kids often breeze through their early years in school. They’re the ones who grasp new concepts quickly, ace their tests without studying or breaking a sweat, and are often labeled as “gifted”. But this ease is a double-edged sword because when they don’t have to try early on, they don’t develop the study skills, confidence, and resilience needed to go the distance.

The Identity Crisis
For many smart kids, their intelligence becomes their identity. They’re praised by teachers, celebrated by parents, and they believe their worth is tied to their academic performance, creating a precarious situation. What happens when they encounter a subject or a concept that doesn’t come easily and they don’t have the comprehension, study, or application skills to work through it? Their self-esteem takes a hit, and they’re anxiety around trying and learning builds.

The ADHD Factor
Some smart kids have undiagnosed ADHD which shows up as the required learning and concentration surpasses what their brains readily have access to. ADHD isn’t just about physical hyperactivity or an inability to pay attention (especially in girls). It affects how the brain processes information and can make focusing on tasks challenging and recalling information under pressure almost impossible. This becomes increasingly problematic as schoolwork becomes more demanding and time-consuming.

The Pressure Cooker
As these kids move up in grades and the academic pressure increases, they’re expected to manage their time, prioritize multiple assignments or exams, and participate in social or athletic endeavors. This is where the overwhelm begins to show and they struggle to keep up. Not because they’re not smart, but because they’ve never learned how to study and process information in a way that works for their brain.

The Emotional Toll
All of this takes an emotional toll. Smart kids often experience high levels of overwhelm, and anxiety, especially around exam time. They’re afraid to try and fail, shattering the “smart kid” image and lowering their confidence. This fear can be paralyzing, leading them to develop perfectionist tendencies and avoid challenges altogether.

Tips for Parents:

  • Separate worth from grades: Make sure your child knows that their worth isn’t tied to their academic performance of letters or percentages.
  • Teach study skills: Don’t assume they know how to study because they’re smart. Take time to teach them effective study techniques based on their learning style.
  • Encourage challenges: Let them know it’s okay to struggle as part of learning and that challenges are opportunities for growth and confidence building.
  • Seek professional help: If you suspect your child has ADHD or is dealing with high levels of anxiety around schoolwork, consult a professional for diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Open communication: Keep the lines of communication open. Make your home a safe space where they can express their fears and frustrations without being fixed.

Smart kids need aren’t the fast track to fantastic parenting. They need emotional support and mentorship to normalize struggle as part of learning and continue trying new things. Remember, being smart is just a part of who they are, not their entire identity.

Is your teen a perfectionist who freaks out if they can’t ‘get it right’, or was the smart kid who’s plagued with anxiety and avoids even trying? ⬅️ I was that teen too.

Click below to get my proven strategies for parenting your struggling teen to reach their full potential, and the 3 mistakes to avoid along the way.

Let’s do this together,