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?

lljkk Sat 16-Mar-13 13:30:59

Have you ever read the book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn?... a less naturally bright child working her ass off to come halfway up the class list? That really deserves pride and a pat on the back.

Not it doesn't, nor according to Kohn I mean. You never express pride or give praise if you follow UP. Not for effort, not for anything.
Just saying.

soontobeburns Sat 16-Mar-13 12:46:58

God sounds like me.
I always coasted through school and never did homework or studied at all and I was still the top of my class (secondary not grammer school)

Tbh it did negatively effect me. I left with 1 A, 2 Bs and 6 Cs st GCSE but if I had studied I could of got all As.
I couldn't cope with deadlines and coursework come alevels and even though I am now doing my ba in night class I still procrastinate and cant work hard at it...I am passing due to natural ability but I could do better if I tried. I just cant argh.

noblegiraffe Sat 16-Mar-13 12:28:00

chasedbybees those links are really interesting (and sound very applicable to the OP's DS).
My 3 year old refuses to have a go at certain things (like drawing) saying 'I'm not very good at that'. I will certainly be making a big effort to reframe challenging things as fun etc.

DoJo Sat 16-Mar-13 08:59:04

Just wanted to add my voice, but haven't had time to ready the whole thread. I would be wary of constantly pushing him - I was always told that, whilst I was doing well, I COULD do better and in the end I just felt as though there was no pleasing my parents or teachers and carried on coasting as at least that gave me time to do things that I enjoyed.
And you know what - I still don't work that hard, and because I am happy to coast along doing 'just enough' I can spend more time with my son, earn enough money to pay the bills and not have to worry, and I'm really happy. I also don't know a single person who tries their hardest all the time - as adults, most people skate through things and do what needs doing rather than trying to excel at everything, and rightly so. I would rather be a happy slacker than a workaholic who doesn't have time to enjoy the simpler things in life. I would also be more concerned about his attitude towards his sister than anything else - being bright is a matter of luck, but being pleasant is something else and should be addressed. Maybe if you encouraged him to help her, he would see the benefit in learning, discover a talent for teaching or just be a little more sympathetic to her and benefit in that way.

ChasedByBees Sat 16-Mar-13 07:44:19

Have just skim read so this may have been covered. You are right to worry as at some point in the future, effort will be required and if he believes that he can either do something straight away or he can't, he will fail.

Many of my smarter friends at school did less well in the workplace than those who had learnt that effort was what mattered. There's some studies showing you should praise effort, not intelligence to get the best out of your children. These might strike a chord:

alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=32124
www.highlightsparents.com/parenting_perspectives/interview_with_dr_carol_dweck_developing_a_growth_mindset
www.learning-theories.com/self-theories-dweck.html

I think you need to set your son challenges where effort is required and don't praise good grades or being smart, but praise when he tries or the effort. As he is smart, perhaps you could discuss the articles with him and how if he wants to be more intelligent and do better, he needs to apply himself.

FWIW I was very much like your son and didn't get my nasty shock till starting university. I pulled myself up then but I think that my early training that I was clever and could just do things caused a real wobble in my self confidence the first time I couldn't just do something. I got through it though.

ruthyroo Sat 16-Mar-13 07:36:50

Have you ever read the book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn? It chimes with a lot of what pp's say about focusing on effort rather than praising results. So a bright kid who is naturally good at tests comes second from top in his class? Big deal. That's like being praised for having blue eyes. But a less naturally bright child working her ass off to come halfway up the class list? That really deserves pride and a pat on the back. The book gives some ideas for focusing on encouraging effort. It changed the way I value things like cleverness and persistence and as an adult survivor of too much praise for being clever and never feeling like I could achieve anything that didn't come naturally I'd really recommend it!

TimeforGandT Sat 16-Mar-13 07:32:20

I once taught a boy in year 9 who was pleasant and did ok levels around mid 6's. Despite encouraging more work etc he just wasn't that bothered and I could struggled for him to be motivated enough to reach good level 7's which I always thought he could do. When I later taught him at a-level he was an amazing student and I struggled to believe it was the same pupil. In my experience boys can peak later than girls, often not until A-Level. You can lead a horse to water etc. Students who are pushed really hard from home but lack their own work ethic may well rebel at some point, or when given more freedom (such as university) fall flat on their faces.

Having said that it is important that he doesn't become switched off entirely which is a danger, as it is possible that he could drop too far behind and although not impossible, really struggle to do the catching up later if and when he ends up in a peer group such as GCSE's or A-Levels where he isn't then one of the brightest.

He should hopefully at some point soon, become really inspired by a subject and a teacher, or be motivated by a career, which will always be the best form of motivation!

If I were you in subjects where he is doing alright monitor but not make too big a deal of it. But on subjects where he is falling behind come alongside him and teachers in ensuring progress is made. School should be able to suggest individual strategies.

Teachers at secondary school don't always pay much attention to levels from primary schools. That's why the majority of schools do their own testing in the first few weeks. Some schools will over focus on and teach to the tests and levels become over inflated, it makes them look good for ofsted. So a pupil who comes out with a level 5 at primary, when secondary's test them come out a bit lower.

Finally, settling into year 7 takes time. Finding your feet, making friends, having many different teachers etc. can be hard for some, and if you have a happy child in year 7, then in my book you are setting yourself up in the right way for the rest of school.

Just want to add though that in year 7 I wouldn't worry about it, he's doing well. It matters more once he gets to year 9/10. Also my lazy brother is not motivated by money and doesn't care if he won't be rich, he's happy how he is though he is very jealous of other brother's achievments. The most important thing is that he is happy.

Haven't read whole thread but YANBU. I have two brothers, both are super intelligent (genius level). One is a hard worker, one is lazy. Lazy brother always did the bare minimum, got excellent GCSE results by putting no effort in, was really smug about it, his A level results were very average (he didn't even do the coursework for some of them). He didn't learn though and at uni still did the bare minimum, he got 69.something percent which was rounded up to 70 so he just scraped a first (he's also smug about this). He's had a series of temp jobs and is struggling to get a permanent job, he's 30 now and earns about 25K.
My other brother is super intellingent but also a very hard worker (he would revise 8hrs a day during exam periods), he got similar GCSE results to brother one (all As and A*s) and all As at A level, he broke school records for exam results (pretty shit school) and got into the top ten in the country for one of his A levels (they sent him a letter about it) he also got 100 percent in some of his modules.
He's now doing his masters and will do a PHD after that. During his degree he always got the highest marks (100 percent in one module), got onto research programmes for the uni every summer which he was paid for (science degree), won cash awards for writing articles and getting best student awards and things (he won about 2K during his degree). Basically he is outstanding and even in a recession will have people desperate to employ him. He'll be very rich some day.
So if your DS is motivated by money this may be something to take into consideration.

A LOT OF people I know in life that are laid back /lazy tend to be happier ones
So personally I wouldn't worry to much

It's probably in his nature to be lazy

Bilbobagginstummy Sat 16-Mar-13 06:51:25

I think YABU.

If he is bright, he will obviously see that he doesn't need to try in order to do well. So why would he bother? I was like this too - top/nearly top of the class in exams, didn't put in massive effort in the term. My parents were relaxed about it but teachers got a bit sniffy; I couldn't understand why - and I still think they were going way OTT. It doesn't actually matter in the slightest how you do at school when you're 11. And he is doing very well - you seem to value hard work but not achievement.

I started doing a bit more when it became necessary: a little more at GCSE, where there was one subject I thought I might not get an A in, then more at A-level so I could get straight A's/into Oxbridge (which I did).

Just back off and chill out, please. He may do more when more is demanded by the actual work he's doing - but even if he doesn't, it's not going to be because his mother didn't nag him enough.

OrangeFireandGoldashes Sat 16-Mar-13 06:36:06

YANBU. But I'm not sure what, if anything you or anyone else can do to change things.

I was your son 30 years ago. I coasted through O levels and came out with good grades, albeit a B in one subject in which I'd been predicted an A. I attempted to coast through A levels and slightly under-achieved in half my subjects. Did enough to get into uni and promptly dropped out at the end of the first year as I didn't have the right mindset for motivated self-study. Anything I find "too hard" I tend to give up on rather than put in extra effort. Not an admirable trait, but I'm bring honest. I am the laziest person I know and I have to be 100% engaged/interested in something to want to spend time, effort and energy on it. I am a Grade A moocher.

I do have a decent job - senior manager/Head of Department on over £40k - but it has taken me a lot longer to get here than it would someone who'd knuckled down and got a good degree etc. Even now my job is very much a means to an end, and where I can get away with it I will still occasionally do the bare minimum. Work to live, not live to work. To most people on the outside I can talk the talk and give the impression of a committed career woman but I know that truthfully, I would give up work tomorrow if I had an alternative means to pay the bills and maintain the not-flashy-but-comfortable lifestyle we now have. I'm simply not a committed, driven person and never have been.

It must be so frustrating, OP, when you can see through the "well-behaved model student" facade that your son's school has fallen for. I wish I had some dazzling insights to offer that would help you change things but I don't. Some people are just made this way and falling grades or under-achievement doesn't spur them on to do better next time. Doesn't mean he's necessarily condemned to a life flipping burgers, though.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Sat 16-Mar-13 06:14:59

I also have a year 7 DS who does things differently to me. I am learning to have to respect that and work with it.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Sat 16-Mar-13 06:13:01

He is in Year 7 . Stop worrying and jumping too far forward into the future. It could be counter-productive.

I aggree with LeMousquetaire

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Sat 16-Mar-13 06:07:37

My worry is things like study skills and revision require practice and getting used to the delayed gratification (DG) another poster talked about. Can that be acquired in adult life or, if you miss the boat as a child, do you then lack those skills forever?
He might not need this ever. It might not be how his brain works.

The not trying is a bit annoying. But he is still very young, he might be scared of failing, or of disappointing you, and he has developed a way of avoiding doing things he is not sure about to avoid conflict.
He can learn to work hard on more physical things (can he clean barns at the nearest horse place? help a vet? ... fill the gap with what is available near you or with what he is interested in)

Not having to revise and not being competitive, doesn't mean you are a failure or that you can't have a very good work ethic later on.

I feel for him, he sounds like me as a kid and one of the little boy I teach, and you are not listening to him. He is probably not doing it to annoy you, he may have a completely different way of doing thing than what you expect (or comprehend).
If I am right, he needs support, love and understanding and gentle pushes to come out of his "world" and being taught some "normal" behaviours which seem obvious to you and his sister.
Does he help at home, that can teach work ethic. Does he likes cooking?

Can you find something he struggle a bit (not too much otherwise it will be daunting) with, and make him stick at practicing? You have to clearly identify the bigger picture of why it will be beneficial for him. (not for you)

Being massively in advance compared to your peers is not an advantage (as you seem to think) and is also pretty boring, he is also becoming a teenager soon and he might be desperate to fit in.

sarahtigh Fri 15-Mar-13 20:57:20

sorry that was a bit random with spelling and grammar all rubbish, I blame sleep deprivation

sarahtigh Fri 15-Mar-13 20:55:51

this might be un PC but do you think he thinks that working hard is a girl thing
or is not interested in some stuff and seeems to him too feminine this can be a real problem in things like english language literature

my DH has refused point blank to read novels since he was about 9 he will read factual books about his favourite subjects like georgian architecture and stair case building but he can not see the point in reading stuff that is not true, I do not think like that but I do see his point why does anyone what to discuss what an imaginary person is feeling about an imaginary event complete and utter time waste like watching paint dry he might just be turned off education as it is all so boring

i sympathise I learned nothing in science or maths in first 2 years at comp although in top set off 8 as we were re doing stuff i learnt when i was 10, previously pi had been 3.14 got to senior school and it was now 3 again seemed like baby stuff, i worked as i was that type but i can see how someone like your DS would disengage

he will discuss guardian/ times etc editorials politics justice for poor but thinks loads of stuff taught in school is a complete time waste maybe your son thinks the same so he can't be bothered hence the rushed homework, i also get that I did my homework well but straight away never wanted to do it at weekend so finished it all friday night, we never got holiday homework just revision in easter holidays before O & A levels

you can sometimes make people do things but you can't make people think things

moodymum8 Fri 15-Mar-13 20:34:16

Thank you everyone: those who think I am unreasonable and those who don't. It honestly does help to hear other people's experiences and views on this.

HearMyRoar: Your story backs up what many say - that one day he will find what interests him and then he'll be more prepared to work. My worry is things like study skills and revision require practice and getting used to the delayed gratification (DG) another poster talked about. Can that be acquired in adult life or, if you miss the boat as a child, do you then lack those skills forever? Obviously for some people they can pull it out of the bag later on so that's reassuring.

Tumbleweeds, whiteflame and noblegiraffe : this ties in with the happiness worry. Yes he is happy to mooch around. I limit screen time but he’s just as happy reading or mooching. He’s done lots of clubs over the years and every single time it has ended with him wanting to leave, me making him give it a fair crack and him eventually leaving a lot later than he would have done if I had let him when he first moaned about going. I wish there was an activity he was totally fascinated by or engaged with – anything at all – but there really isn’t. The crowing is unpleasant definitely - but I think he partly does it to counter my annoyance with him that he just doesn’t try. As far as I know, he doesn’t do it with his school friends. At home he’s keen to prove to me he’s as clever as a Year 9 child or whatever just to counteract my frustration at him not revising. If I didn’t nag, I don’t think he’d crow so much about what he does well with no effort. If he does try it at school I am sure his friends will soon let him know that it is not an attractive trait!

Amaxapax: I feel a bit odd asking the school to put him on report. I think I am justified though in asking for help with the subjects he is actually going backwards in even though his levels are fine. Lack of progress is something more concrete I can raise with them perhaps.

Thank you everyone. I am glad I am not the only one who has experienced this and all the responses here have given me a lot to think about.

HearMyRoar Fri 15-Mar-13 19:18:51

Gosh, you talk as if how he is I'm year 7 is an indicator of how he will be for the rest of his life. He's, what 12? Give him a break. How he is now isn't even an indicator of how her will be next year let alone when he gets to applying for jobs.

I coasted through school (actually that would be a charitable way of putting it), I somehow got OK GCSEs but dropped out without a-levels. I now have an MA and could have been doing a PhD but got a better career offer so stopped it for now to pursue my job instead. The fact is I just wasn't suited to school. I was bored and just couldn't be bothered with working on stuff I had no interest in when I could do OK without the effort. When I got a bit older I found things I was interested in and actually worked blooming hard ever since. I imagine people I work with would be rather shocked if the knew what I was like when I was at school.

wordfactory Fri 15-Mar-13 18:19:57

YANBU OP.

I can't think of many things worse than people not achieveing their potential. And your DS won't do that without application.

Indeed, much of a pupil's academic career is predicated on application rather than raw intelligence.

I think the best way to foster it has been already been pointed out. Find out what he wants to do and work back. Highly effective if you can find some examles of people who succeeded through application and some who failed because they didn'ta pply themselves.

CorrieDale Fri 15-Mar-13 17:54:34

YANBU but I think this is something how'll have to sort out for himself. Either he'll go to college and coast a first or he'll learn that he's not the only bright kid out there and he'll have to deal with that as best he can. The boasting thing is something his little pals will probably do more to cure than you can.

Amaxapax Fri 15-Mar-13 16:36:56

I think you need to take a little pressure off yourself and place a bit more on the school. I am a teacher, and the expectation is that the most able pupils are stretched. I know you said he won't volunteer for extension tasks, but it shouldn't really be a choice! His teachers should be offering differentiated tasks in lessons and for homework that push him to do more so he progresses.

I would contact your DS's head of year or the person in charge of monitoring achievement, if there is one. Ask them to let teachers know that you are concerned DS isn't being challenged and he is becoming complacent. We sometimes put pupils like this on an academic diary, which asks teachers to comment not on behaviour, but on effort and areas for improvement. It is very common for parents of brighter pupils to request this measure when they feel their children are coasting.

lljkk Fri 15-Mar-13 16:29:01

I don't think you can make someone enjoy slogging.
it seems to me that there's a lot of research about delayed gratification (DG): some people find it easy and others impossible. It's tied up with work ethic because if you find it easy to accept delayed gratification then it's easier to slog away at boring bits of hard work knowing that the ultimate reward will be worth it. More likely to enjoy the work itself along the way, too, but ability to enjoy work for its own sake is work ethic, too.

There's inherent ability in how easily someone takes to DG; it's about as hard-wired as this tenuous thing we call intelligence.

whiteflame Fri 15-Mar-13 16:26:45

I would be concerned too OP. Not sure what to do about it though. Does he really crow about how good he is? Because IMO that is as much of a problem as the lack of effort.

exoticfruits Fri 15-Mar-13 16:26:16

I hated school games so it didn't matter how 'exciting' I am not going to put much effort in at all-getting through the lesson would be the only objective.

It is all personality.

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