top of page

Student Signs of Lacking Critical Skills

Recognize some warning signs of lacking study skills and student success strategies.

Parents should be aware of warning signs signaling a child is in need of supplemental help to succeed in the classroom. Typically, students exhibit one of these signs at one point or another, especially when challenged with difficult work. However, if one or more of these signs is noticed consistently, consider getting some help in an area most parents do not think about: study skills. As parents (I'm included here), we tend to jump into academic tutoring. However, that might not be the issue. Some students struggle with academic content, such as math, while others do not know daily habits and successful learning strategies to help them conquer studying. "Success learning strategies" include: study skills, note-taking, test preparation, task management, time management, organizational skills, and so forth. These are typically not taught in school, which is why your child might be struggling. Below are some signs students exhibit when additional help is needed.

Freak-Out Moments/ Panic Attacks

As a parent, if you have witnessed this level of frustration, you know why I include the term "freak-out moments." It's the moment you walk into the study area and the student has lost "it." Crumpled papers may be everywhere, crying may be accompanied, and the look of complete frustration is typically all over the child's face.

Usually, these moments arise when a plan is not in place. It's an overwhelming feeling of, "I don't know how to do this!" At times, intense frustration can lead to a panic attack as the body deals with the high emotion resulting in one or many of these reactions:

- Racing mind

- Pounding heart,

- Sweaty palms,

- Headache,

- Tingling in the limbs, hands, or face,

- Crying

In short, it's heartbreaking for both parent and child!

To Fix: Finding an academic and/or a study skills tutor is going to be your best bet to help to calm these "attacks." If the anxiety is coming from not understanding the subject content, grab an academic tutor. However, if the anxiety is rearing its head from not understanding HOW to: study, take good class notes, be productive, and so forth, grab help from someone who teaches study skills. In some cases, both are needed.

Procrastination/ Cramming For A Test

Cramming for a test can be an indicator of not knowing WHAT to do, and not knowing HOW to study. As a result, the student just puts it off. Then, the night before the test, the student thinks, " I better crack the book and try." As most of us have seen, cramming for tests usually ends up with negative results.

To Fix: Equip your child with strategies: test preparation, creating study plans, testing strategies, memorization strategies, daily habits, and routines to avoid test panic mode.

The Messy Mess

From the messy backpack, a black hole to nowhere, to papers being lost, parents not receiving notes or school communication, homework not being turned in, and the list goes on, right? In my experience, most students do not have a good organizational method. Why? They are not taught how to do this.

There are two avenues your child may need help with. First, is school organization. Ask yourself what method or system is in place to organize the day-to-day operations (as adults think of it) in your child's life. Put yourself in the "flow" of your child at school. What are the routines? Are there 8 notebooks to manage? Is that too much? Where do notes go? Is there a notes/homework folder? Where does homework go? If you do not know (most do not), ask your child questions and find the weak points. Second, if most school material is online, evaluate the online organization. What system is in place? Is everything in folders or located all over the place? Is everything backed up? Think about what you do to organize yourself and those same tactics could be applied to your child.

To Fix: Determine which organizational skills are lacking; then equip your child with the lifelong skill.

Lacking Confidence

Lacking confidence is a result of being stuck in what I call, "The Distress Loop." Students usually do not lose confidence after just one mess-up. They lose confidence when a series of events have built up and they feel stuck in a loop.

To Fix: As soon as you notice the start of The Distress Loop, grab help. It's very difficult, and much harder, to fix habits the longer the loop has continued. The Savvy Student, LLC strives for students to stay in a "Success Loop."

Grades Dropping

Obviously, grades dropping is a huge indicator that help is needed quickly. Also, as noted in the Distress Loop, it can be the start of a downhill spiral.

To Fix: Use my Student Success Equation to determine which area needs to be addressed.

Academic Content Mastery + Study Skills = Successful Student

Your child can not have only one part of this equation and be a successful student. He/she must be equipped with both. The trick is figuring out which it is. To help, I typically tell my parents to analyze the big picture by asking:

- Is your child struggling across the board in school? If so, it is probably a study skills issue.


- Is your child primarily struggling in one class? If so, it is probably an academic content issue.

If you notice your child seems to have mastered both parts of the Success Equation but grades are dropping, begin to dig into other areas of your child's life that could be the culprit. These areas might include: social and/or home life. There could be more than one thing that needs to be addressed. As a parent, I have always found spending time 1:1 with my kiddos helps them to open up a little more. Try doing something fun and relaxing together, such as bowling or taking a walk together. Ultimately, create an environment where the child feels safe to open up.

Other Signs To Watch Out For:

* Difficulty staying on task

* Trouble taking good notes to study from

* Forgets projects and/or test dates

* Bounces from task to task leaving things incomplete

* Copies summaries at the end of the chapter as a studying method

* Argues over schoolwork

If you see more than one sign of lacking critical success strategies, you really should reach out to someone for help. At the end of the day, the student must be equipped with the skills he/she is lacking in order to reach his/her full learning potential. The good news is, these skills and strategies are lifelong! Knowing how to study and high-achieving habits/routines are key elements to student success. As an adult, think about all the times you have to organize, take notes, read for deep meaning, and so forth; we use these skills daily. Trust me, your child will thank you for this!



One thing you can do right now is to have your tween, teen, or young adult discover his/her learning style.

This is a SUPER HELPFUL insight into how he/she learns best allowing for increased productivity and learning while reducing frustration.


Red jacket white background.png

I'm Kristen Henderson, M.Ed.

I'm a mom, wife, former classroom teacher, and the owner of The Savvy Student, LLC who has helped an enormous amount of students and families have calmer, more productive homework/study time by equipping them with study skills, high-achieving habits, activities, and routines.  My mission? To bridge the gap with essential skills not taught in most schools while helping students "level -up" their learning in school. I help motivated, but frustrated and overwhelmed, tweens, teens, and young adults go from mediocre to extraordinary.


Fun Facts: I love my yellow lab, Charlie like my 3rd child, dark chocolate, and a good pair of jogger pants!


Let's Connect!
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

* Study Skills

* Note-Taking

* Testing Strategies

* Test Prep

* Organization

* Time Management

* Task Management

* Memorization

* Student Hacks

* & More

Uncover The Personal

Learning Style


Calm homework, study, and test preparation moments by discovering the way your child's brain likes to learn, and receive customized learning strategies for that particular learning style. style! 


bottom of page