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AIBU to be really annoyed with DS for just doing O.K at school?

(105 Posts)
moodymum8 Fri 15-Mar-13 08:26:50

I am a regular but have n/c for this as most of my posts are a bit more upbeat and I can't decide if I am being a complete cow or now:

DS is in Year 7 and a bright kid. Every parents' evening in the past have always been a breeze: bright, well behaved, gets good grades, no complaints...

He is now in Year 7 and this week we've had the first parents' evening at his new school and I find myself feeling really annoyed with him. Basically he is coasting - I think that's the message.

For example one teacher told me that the class had sat an exam that they were supposed to have revised for. DS did zero revision - didn't even tell me there was a test coming up. He got the second highest mark in the class and is delighted - crowing about how brilliantly he's done.
He started the year with really high levels in maths and English. He's made zero progress (gone backwards in fact in one) and does the absolute bare minimum for homework, never volunteers for the extension tasks etc but because he started on high levels, he's still near top and gets good marks and again is crowing about how good he is.

I am really furious if I’m honest. The AIBU part is AIBU to think that is not a good enough to get good marks with a crap attitude and no effort? And AIBU to wish he'd got all level 4's and a good telling off? And AIBU to let him know I am disappointed?
He knows I am I think because he lectured me that in MFL for example he has got the highest level they award for Year 7 so what’s my problem?
DH thinks we should be pleased DS gets good grades and is well behaved at school. He says many parents would be delighted just with that but I’m not. I think having a crap / lazy attitude is going to hold DS back much more in life than getting slightly lower grades. So AIBU and if not what do I do about it?

YouTheCat Fri 15-Mar-13 10:21:31

Is he getting homework done and in on time?

Some kids don't need to revise loads because they are lucky that the topics stick in their minds.

cocoachannel Fri 15-Mar-13 10:26:58

I was like this up until GCSEs and it hit me in the arse at A-level. I got into a good university (somehow) and cruised again through an English Lit degree. My professional exams were then a nightmare which is when my work ethic was finally formed. So YANBU - I'd be concerned too.

TumbleWeeds Fri 15-Mar-13 10:30:49

Well... I have had similar issue with dc1 (but he is much younger than your ds).
School who kept telling him how good he was, that he was fantastic etc...
Result little efforts on his side.

I have to say, I have told him and the school that I am expecting more from him. I am expecting efforts and that being at the top in his school doesn't mean he is a genius/doesn't need to make any efforts.
Also that whether he is first or last doesn't matter. What matters is the effort he is putting into it and how much progress he is making.

The fact he hasn't progresses or has gone down a level would be enough for me to tell him off.

Fwiw, I had a very easy time at school. I also have been working (not that hard but would have done the revision for an exam). I was coasting until... I started in a very competitive environment for Uni, with other bright kids and I realized I wasn't that good after all....
So I did quite well because I had still being putting some effort into it but I can easily see how it would have been a nightmare if I hadn't.
And I really don't want that for my child.

moodymum8 Fri 15-Mar-13 10:35:36

No seeker you're not wrong. It is hard to describe. He is very well behaved in the sense that he doesn't do naughty things (he doesn't chat in class, doesn't kick footballs in the house, doesn't hit his sister, doesn't take things without asking) but he is as stubborn as anything and point blank refuses to do anything he doesn’t want to. I admit I don’t’ know how to rectify that.
With the book example, I take DD to the library every Saturday but he won’t come with us. If I wanted him to come (which I do) there’s nothing I can say to persuade him. I’d literally have to drag him there which I don’t of course. He doesn’t respond to persuasion or reasoning and will argue for England! He has an answer for everything and is fundamentally quite idle (hence not involved in any clubs, doesn’t want to go anywhere unless there’s something in it for him). He probably does run rings around me because it is not overt naughtiness, it is just bloody annoying knowing how to deal with it.

I am not painting a very flattering picture. If you looked at his school reports, he is described as being very well behaved – and he is. He has never had a detention or lost a house point or anything like that in all the years he’s been at school. He’s never been in a fight or done any of the usual naughty things like chatting or calling out in class. His lack of positive engagement is also a lack of negative engagement as well
He just won’t do anything that he doesn’t want to do and nothing I can say or do can make him. He will, I am sure, read more widely if I bring him books because he enjoys reading and will be happy to explore different genres. If I tried to get him to go to the library with me to choose these books, I’d have a hell of a fight on my hands and I wouldn’t win it.

Some might call it picking your battles. Some might call it a cop out. I swing between the two but the truth is, even if I did pick it as a battle, I wouldn’t know how to win it with him.

lrichmondgabber Fri 15-Mar-13 10:40:29

Children can only do their best at school NOT someone elses best

Curtsey Fri 15-Mar-13 10:45:26

I was a total coaster at school, and so were all my siblings - one of whom very gifted. I'm sure it irritated our parents no end, and in particular for the gifted sibling, it must have posed a bit of a dilemma.

What can I tell you? It took me until my early 20s to wake up and get my stuff together a bit. Coasted through my undergrad degree but worked properly for a Master's (alongside a full-time job) and got a first. When I was younger I disliked being challenged because I was a bit afraid of putting myself out there. Anything I couldn't do well immediately, I just dismissed it as 'not being good at that.' The stuff I could do easily, I dashed off smugly.

I was bright but not exceptional. I think whenever your son leaves school he will realise that his own limits. Competition and/or ambition will come into it at some point, even if he couldn't care less about that all now. In hindsight I am very glad that I was never pushed or nagged about schoolwork besides the odd exasperated comment.

I'm not sure you can really do that much. Although - if he loves English, is there any way you could put him in touch with an adult (preferably a young trendy type!) who writes for a living? It might amaze him and open his eyes to see how one gets from 'being good at English' to 'this is how I got my job, this is how I work'.

So - YANBU to be really cross at DS, but IMO and IME your DH's approach is a better sanity-saver smile

diaimchlo Fri 15-Mar-13 10:49:05

Reading your post I think that you have a very intelligent child and should be proud. He is still in his first year at comp and will be experiencing all the natural changes that happen at his age.

As he progresses through High school he will mature and realise that more effort equals better results. Please do not push what at the moment he does not feel naturally inclined to do as this could start building a barrier between you, just acknowledge what he has achieved and suggest that if he has achieved that level with little or no extra effort, what could he achieve with the extra effort put in.

moodymum8 Fri 15-Mar-13 10:50:59

YouThe Cat - yes he does his homework the day it is set and the second he gets through the door. He wants it over and done with as quickly as possible even if the deadline is weeks away. He is the same with his holiday projects (the school are very keen on these!). He does them as soon as they have broken up for the holidays so that he doesn't have to think about them or look at them and have school work ruin his break (that’s his explanation and his choice not mine).

This is another example of my good/bad behaviour dilemma. From the school’s point of view, a boy who does his homework the second it is set and never hands it in late is a delight. From my point of view, it is his motivation that makes it less good – the idea that school work is so intolerable that it should be hurriedly completed to avoid it contaminating weekends and free time does not demonstrate a very good attitude or work ethic.
It is also an example of an argument I couldn’t win. If I say ‘why don’t you look at it tomorrow when you’re less tired?’ he’ll get all uppity about how I should be pleased that he does his work without being asked. We both know he just wants it out of the way and is going to reel off any old rubbish that vaguely fits the bill rather than waiting until the weekend and spending a bit of time making it decent but what can I say to that without becoming majorly critical of everything he produces?

Latara Fri 15-Mar-13 10:51:53

I would say... YABU.

He's well behaved, & if he gets his homework done and handed in on time with fair enough grades then i don't understand the problem?

As long as he works hard by the time he gets to the GCSE years, surely that's more important?

Latara Fri 15-Mar-13 10:53:28

Disclaimer: my family background is definitely non-academic so i was never pushed to achieve much - although i did achieve good grades on my own in the end.

greenfolder Fri 15-Mar-13 10:57:29

back off op- he is 11 years old.

leave him be for a bit. if he does sod all, there will be a consequence. if he doesnt like the consequence he will buck his ideas up. just because he is potentially capable of being constantly top of everything doesnt mean he has to be.

there is nothing you can do to motivate him. if you want to offer rewards for results hold on until gcse in the final push.

moodymum8 Fri 15-Mar-13 10:57:45

Latara: You are right. I suppose my worry is that a child who never puts in much effort might find that they simply don't have the skills to do so when it comes to GCSE or A Level and all of a sudden natural ability just isn't enough. The lack of progress / slipping backwards isn't good but maybe not that uncommon in Year 7.

Thank you everyone: I am going to take the advice here and step back from it. I cannot make him do his best - I know that - and nagging won't change anything except to make me more cross and him more defensive.
He's probably so stubborn that he'll up his game the moment I start ignoring the issue but I won't bank on that either. I'll have to let it be and trust that, when the time comes that he wants to do more, I'll support that change at that stage.

Curtsey Fri 15-Mar-13 10:59:00

Oh gosh, though, the homework thing is amazing. I get what you're saying, but I can't imagine that many kids relish the prospect of stretching out their homework over the weekend and 'doing it properly' with a good work ethic when they could be out doing more fun things? He is still very young.

Domjolly Fri 15-Mar-13 11:05:29

right so now you know what are the school and more importantly YOU going to do what's the plan?

in our house we do champion good grades but more import effort and hard one C is worth more than a easy A in our home

its about the effort and the outcome combined we are really lucky our son attends a school were costing is simply not tolerated and its made very clear that the tops sets are just as easy to change as the bottom sets

and when the teachers are assessing the sets who goes were behaviour and attitude to work is also taken into account

Domjolly Fri 15-Mar-13 11:12:50

Latara Fri 15-Mar-13 10:51:53

"I would say... YABU.

He's well behaved, & if he gets his homework done and handed in on time with fair enough grades then i don't understand the problem?
As long as he works hard by the time he gets to the GCSE years, surely that's more important?"

the problem is that with some children if they wont work hard now it kind of becomes a habit just costing not working now effects what set you will be in when taking GCSES and these days the are chosen at the end of year 8 the work will only get harder and more will be expected of him if he wont work hard now in year 7 when not much is expected what will happen down the lone I feel for the op
but sadly I think this is one for him its so hard to watch your child waist a gift or a talent or even go down the wrong road but its there mistake to make.

post Fri 15-Mar-13 11:16:36

I've spent the last few years reconciling myself to having a ds very like yours, bright, but coasting. He's 16 now, and yes, his gcse's will be goodish, but he could have done better.

But...of the adults I know, neither their 'success', or more importantly their happiness seems to have any real correlation to how well they did at school. So I've had to admit that it's as much about my own moral outrage and ideas about what he should be doing as anything. I, on the other hand, had a fairly glittering academic history, but it took me years to sort out what I really wanted to do with my life and make a go of it, in part because I'd been so geared up to being 'top of the class', pleasing people etc.

I've found that helpful smile

moodymum8 Fri 15-Mar-13 11:20:55

What I haven't explained so much, and what might make me unreasonable here, is that DS has a younger sibling. DD isn't academic but spends hours on her homework and reading diary and revises for her spelling test like she's about to sit an A Level in it!
I suppose (and I would never say this in real life and I hope neither DC would know this) that I feel proud of DD who tries so hard and this exacerbates my irritation with DS. He can be unkind about the difference between them and is pleased that he did better than her at the same age despite not doing anything like the amount of work that she does. I don’t tolerate this and won’t let him put her down but he sneaks in enough odd comments that I know this is what he thinks and it sort of adds to my general annoyance that it isn’t a very nice or healthy attitude to have in life.
But then maybe I am unreasonable for comparing them myself? In the way parents shouldn't compare one child who gets good grades with the one who doesn't, maybe I shouldn't be viewing DS's crap laid back attitude in comparison to his sister who probably is the extreme opposite and should instead realise that lots of children find their motivation later in life?

I thought all this parenting business was supposed to get a lot easier as they went to High School? I think I was a lot better with simple toddler dilemmas! Please don’t tell me to wait until the hormones kick in or I might cry!

WonderingPast Fri 15-Mar-13 11:37:49

Gosh, this turned into a massive essay!

I think it matters if he is not putting effort into something, if he is not doing the best he can. If he were achieving average grades but making his best efforts you would be proud. If he were achieving average grades but not making his best effort, you would expect him to try harder. He is achieving top grades but not making his best effort, and I think it is reasonable to expect him to pull him finger out - not because of the grades, but because of the work-ethic and attitude.

However, if he really is coming top / second in the top stream, getting the highest attainment targets he can, how can you motivate him? I think it is difficult to say "try harder at this, even though you cannot get a higher grade for it".

I concur with the suggestion to have him see where he might want to end up, and work back from there. One of my children - younger than yours - who could quite easily coast, has an ambition to be a doctor, another would like to apply to the Oxbridge College I attended. Maybe they'll end up doing something else, but the motivation that to achieve that goal they have to be the best, do the best he can, sets aspirations. Find people who have jobs they needed to achieve very highly for (I don't know what - maybe a rich investment banker with an Oxford degree?), and get them to talk with him. Backtrack from there.

I wonder whether you can get him to try harder at something else. I know you said he won't get involved in clubs, but I think that he should be making an effort at something. I can't remember what you said he did with his time (scifi books? anything else?) but can you support him to expand on that - blog book reviews or his own stories? (including designing and promoting the blog)? Learn to code / programme computers and use graphics? Find out more about new innovations / technologies? Design and build a mini-space rocket? Get into electronics? One of my boys recently took up a quite unexpected sporting activity out of school. I concur with the read-more-widely advice. Also good TV documentary series (Wonders of Life etc). Logic puzzles and games. Enrol him in an online maths tuition scheme so the goals and targets are stretching and not capped? Grow a veg garden? Read or listen to or watch foreign language materials (there are some good podcasts) in the languages he's learning or another one? He's older than children I know, so I'm not sure what would be age appropriate.

I also have a child with a stubborn attitude to my suggestions and I empathise. Can you sit him down and say "I'll not nag about the effort you put into your school work as long as you are getting the highest grades, but you need to be putting effort into something." ?

My husband coasted through school into a good university for a hard degree subject without any effort, and did badly at uni. It had never occurred to him to work at his studies. There will be people out there who are both very bright AND work hard. If you wish to continue excelling, there will be a time when your peer group is sufficiently highly motivated that you have to pull up your socks.

Best wishes!

WonderingPast Fri 15-Mar-13 11:41:03

"you need to be putting effort into something."

I meant could be of his own choosing.

My son is quite similar to yours, but in a more dilute form (not quite as bright, not quite as stubborn, not quite as lacking in detentions grin). He is now in Year 9, and starting to get his act together. I have never really focussed that much on his grades, except when he's making no progress. My DS is not particularly competitive either, but I do nonetheless expect him to compete against his past self, and he knows it. (Yeah, but you could do THAT when you were TEN!) I have, however, always made a big deal about his ATLs (Attitudes to Learning), and have always just emphasised that working to his capacity is what counts with me. (And may lead to a small surprise gift, usually a new sci-fi book smile.) Two years on, I think it's finally started to filter through!

"he is as stubborn as anything and point blank refuses to do anything he doesn’t want to. I admit I don’t’ know how to rectify that. "
Neither do I - as I said, my son is more dilute than yours. He can be stubborn, but I have worn him down over the years I suppose, or maybe he has become more mature and can see that my demands requests are reasonable. He will argue (I made the mistake of giving him the template for smart-mouth cracks. Sigh.) but is not immovable. He knows that once I give him the deathstare over the top of my glasses and say in monotone "Because I said so." that I will not be moved. And that he will lose access to his XBox/laptop/the TV for at least 24hours if he continues to argue. Find whatever sanction will work with him, and deploy it sparingly/wisely.

I wouldn't worry about the lack of clubs - I've never been much of a joiner-inner, neither has DH so it's never been an issue with DS. We've recently been discussing with him that in later life he's going to need to be able to demonstrate to e.g. uni/employer that he is worth taking on; that he is a rounded person, and that hobbies of reading and XBox will not be enough to interest them. He can see the logic of this, and is addressing it in his own way by organising a sponsored bikerun for charity, his school have suggested Duke of Edinburgh etc.

The best you can do IMO is to continue to make clear that you value effort, and wait for him to mature.

biryani Fri 15-Mar-13 11:54:47

I was a coaster too, until I got to University and got a shock because I wasn't used to working. I got a crap degree but since then I have reasonable progress in my life. With respect, I think you are perhaps over thinking things; your ds is well-behaved and does not cause problems. What's to worry about? Are you perhaps overemphasising academic success? He sounds a great kid to me, and he is still young. He has yet to go through teenagerdom, and will make academic choices soon, based on his strengths.

You sound to me as though you want him to conform to YOUR vision of academic perfection. He's fine in school and does his homework on time -early even- and still it's not good enough. And why shouldn't a normal youngster want to enjoy his spare time as he likes if he's finished his homework?

I tthink that if you continue to try to control him in this way not only will you drive yourself up the wall but he may well rebel against you.

Perhaps you should lay off a bit?

Oh , and his digs about how much effort his little sister makes - I'd be making pointed references to The Hare and The Tortoise right back at him (with the deathstare over the top of the glasses etc. ...).

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 15-Mar-13 12:25:01

I applaud you for your honesty, I don't think you're a mean old cow at all but be careful. The danger is if you carry on a crusade about this, you risk appearing dissatisfied or unappreciative, thereby making others think, She doesn't know how lucky she is, or more crucially your DS might think, "Mum's never satisfied, nothing I do pleases her, anyone else's parents would be chuffed to bits". It almost comes across as though you'd like him to fail - to wake him up to the dangers of complacency, I realise.

It doesn't help that your DH evidently doesn't share your worry.

Your DS doesn't play an instrument - now why would that be? Lack of natural ability? So he opts out so he won't have to try too hard. Ditto sport, extra-curricular activities. Avoiding things he doesn't shine at easily warps his ability to deal with failure later on and re-grouping and trying again.

My DS adopted the same approach. Nothing wrong with not being a 'joiner-in' by choice but being left out later on is less agreeable.

He may well sail through school academically if they don't push him. There will be a point at which brains and a good memory won't be enough, he will find work gets more demanding eventually. Socially he might do less well. His peers will start to notice and resent any arrogance about doing well. Even teachers are pushed to recall the able but insular ones, they'll remember the demanding, brilliant, extrovert, cheeky pupils.

I had this with my DS, slightly different in that he was motivated to work and set himself tough targets which he achieved, but he left school withut a backward look and compared to his younger sister who flourishes there, it was not as happy time for him as I'd have wished.

samuelwhiskers Fri 15-Mar-13 12:27:29

My son is also similar to yours in that he has a lot of natural intelligence but never goes that extra mile. He also has just one interest outside of school. I also feel like you - frustrated sad

However, I have been thinking a lot about this recently because I wonder if it is our problem as parents. There is so much competition out there, you need A*s for Oxbridge, A*/As and few Bs for RG universities, but it doesn't stop there. If you want to apply for KPMG (for instance) you need more besides. It never seems to stop. All we hear is that there is so much competition out there for this and for that and the gold standard is perfect marks at school and uni - anything under a 2:1 is not worth much anymore. We want the best for our children so much that it is all consuming as parents.

I too have a DD who really is an A grade student, she is working now but I left her to it all through school, uni, everything, just said well done, so this is a terrible shock to me. Are boys just different?

OP, I think your son will pull something out of the bag at the last minute because it sounds as though he is cruising at the moment, perhaps when things start getting difficult or his marks drop, he will put the work in.

claraschu Fri 15-Mar-13 12:36:20

I think the problem is with the school system. If you are clever, you can coast along and do very well as far as exam grades go (even through A levels). The school system is set up primarily to get kids through these hurdles.

I don't think children are necessarily finding their true passions and becoming the most thoughtful and interesting people they can be. There are a lot of depressed and aimless grown ups out there, and this is what worries me.

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