DD does not seem to be thriving

(325 Posts)
whenInDoubt Thu 29-Aug-13 09:54:14

Frustrated Dad here. I have 2 lovely daughters, well-behaved, conscientious, sensitive. My youngest (8) is developing nicely, shows an interest in things around her, asks deep and interesting questions about poignant subjects and shows a growing understanding of the world around her.

My eldest (10) is another matter entirely. She lacks interest in just about anything other than food (mainly ice cream and sweets) and clothes. She struggles with basic questions of arithmetic or common sense (e.g. on holiday at a museum I asked her to explain how a flame made a metal pipe make a sound; she looked at me blankly; I asked her what the flame did to the air; she said "cools it down"). She does very little at home except read books (which she seems to have no recollection or understanding of afterwards if you you try to engage her), and watch TV (she again shows no comprehension of what she is seeing). She complains when I want to watch things such as sport.

She seems very afraid of effort. She recently said she wanted to enter a competition. I said to her "well the standard will be high so it's not enough to just scribble an entry and send it in, you may have to try several ideas and refine the best one until it is of the required standard." She decided not to enter. Her school performance is reasonable. Her teachers like her (she is easy to deal with I guess), she "gives 100%" according to her end-of-year report which can be read several ways.

My wife and I have tried pretty much everything to draw her out. We've bought her books, a Netbook (she played Moshi Monster games on it and that was about all), sat her in front of educational TV shows (she watches it blankly). We've set up reward schemes for achievement and even disincentives for lack of effort. We've tried to encourage her interests in lots of things from cookery to science to sport but nothing works. I feel frustrated that my relationship with her is so poor, and concerned that secondary school (in a year) will be a real shock for her. I accept that not every person is destined to be academically brilliant, but she has not discovered an interest or a talent yet and I find it difficult to encourage with so little to go on. Any advice would be appreciated.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Thu 29-Aug-13 10:05:47

You sound very negative in your approach if you ask me. Why warn her of the effort she will need to make in advance of her actually trying? She came to you with the idea of entering a competition and instead of being positive about her idea and her ambition, you shot her down with your suggestion that she would "scribble" an entry. No wonder she decided not to enter.

Regarding the flame in the museum...perhaps she has no interest in that aspect of science...perhaps she didn't know why the sound was made...why test her when on a family day out?

You seem determined to disregard her teacher's opinion....why? I think you need to look at your attitude not your daughter's.

mummytime Thu 29-Aug-13 10:14:57

You sound awful! Sorry but you sound like nightmare parents.

What is your daughter good at? What do you praise her for?
Does she answer questions with "I don't know" or "nothing" because she is frightened of getting it wrong?
Are you continually comparing her to her sister (who you don't sound proud of, just well she'll do)?

In a few years I hope she finds MN and we can direct her to the stately homes thread.
In the meantime if you are for real, please investigate sending her to a caring boarding school, maybe they can help.

whenInDoubt Thu 29-Aug-13 10:35:02

Thanks NeoMaxiZoomDweebie.

Perhaps in response I would say that I warned her of the effort required because (1) it is true that unless you are mega-talented then you need to put hard work into things if you want to win; and (2) she has expressed disappointment in the past with entering and not winning, and she is now of an age where I would hope she can do better by learning from her mistakes.

I would be delighted to see her taking an interest in any science, never mind pipes. To not comprehend that a flame makes things hotter would be one thing. Perhaps she thought I was asking her a trick question, as I sometimes do.

I am not disregarding her teacher's opinion, I am questioning its meaning. Or, I am pondering as to why she would be so different at school and at home.

Dackyduddles Thu 29-Aug-13 10:41:42

Sorry but when did your poor dd become a prize poodle ordered to perform for her master at every opportunity and punished for every answer she gives? No wonder she's giving you nothing. You are demanding everything and looking to find her lacking.

Do enjoy her company? What has she done to make you laugh?

Has she ever done anything to make you proud?

I think you need to re read your op. it's reading extremely negatively and judgmental which is encouraging us to respond robustly. What job do you do? Maybe that's affecting your views.....or did your dad judge everything you did....?

chocoluvva Thu 29-Aug-13 10:45:18

It's possible to have an enquiring mind without being particularly interested in physics and chemistry.

We all have approach our environment differently - she might 'see' things in an artistic or philosophical way. Or she might turn out to be very interested in the 'human condition'. She might have a talent for languages or creative writing.

whenInDoubt Thu 29-Aug-13 10:54:18

@mummytime

thanks for your response. If I was as harsh with my children as you have just been with me then they'd probably have been taken into care by now. One wonders exactly what sort of parent you are if that's the language you use when someone asks for help.

To answer your questions:

What is she good at? She shows average aptitude or below in most things. She has enjoyed handwriting and calligraphy, she writes far neater than I ever did. She can do cartwheels. She likes cycling. But she shows no passion for anything in particular. Her younger sister betters her at many skills and this obviously makes her feel insecure, though continually her effort has been praised (and that is the received wisdom is it not, you praise the effort, not the skill?)

She is definitely frightened of being wrong. Part of that is intrinsic, part of that is due to her relationship with her sister. And part of it is due to equating not getting a reward with being punished. She has stopped making the effort in many areas (she used to enjoy cookery, we made things together, but now she just grumps), and so we have nothing to reward, further compounding the problem.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Thu 29-Aug-13 11:01:11

Here's some news for you...some people are average because they're meant to be that way. Not all people have a talent...your daughter might be one of them. Or she's just not found out what she excels at yet.

LIZS Thu 29-Aug-13 11:01:23

Could your constant comparison to her sister, whether voiced or not , perhaps undermine her self confidence so that only perfection will do in her eyes. Maybe she has yet to find her niche and learn to take risks, in which case a new school may give her the opportunity. You need to let her find her own way and knocking down her competition idea was very mean. Maybe it wouldn't have been great in the end but presumably have you never had to make a mistake and then learnt from it.

YouAreMyRain Thu 29-Aug-13 11:02:27

I think your dd needs to feel loved and valued for who she is. You sound disappointed in her, which she surely picks up on. I think she may "thrive" in a more positive environment rather than one where she is "tested" and judged on family days out.

I feel really sorry for her to be honest. Why does she need to possess a special talent or interest? It should to be enough for you that she is who she is.

purrpurr Thu 29-Aug-13 11:03:43

You shoot down her aspirations, pepper your interactions with trick questions... You sound like a nightmare. You say her only interests are food and clothes. I don't suppose you are controlling and acerbic regarding her food intake? Seems quite likely, considering your general approach to parenting. Just as an FYI pointer to take home and think about later, parenting is not when you ruthlessly and systematically squash, undermine and put down your offspring, okay?

YouAreMyRain Thu 29-Aug-13 11:04:46

Also, you used to cook together but now she just "grumps"? Why is that do you think? Did you remove any enjoyment from the activity by testing her on the science of yeast or helpfully correcting her icing technique?

mummytime Thu 29-Aug-13 11:06:45

I am a Scientist, and have also trained to be a teacher. My children are not perfect, but I would never respond to my child expressing an interest in a competition by "well the standard will be high so it's not enough to just scribble an entry and send it in, you may have to try several ideas and refine the best one until it is of the required standard."
I would start by encouraging, and being positive.

Again: What does she do well? What do your praise her for?

Why do you think she lacks confidence?

She used to enjoy cookery. Why did she stop enjoying it? Did you push her? Was she able to follow her own ideas? Was she allowed to make a mess? Was she compared with others? Did you say something like "One day you will be on Master Chief"?

Do you tell her you love her? Do you tell her you are proud just for who she is?
Do you have an attitude that people are either naturally brilliant or not? Do you value hard work?

Most 10 year olds are not highly motivated. It is very very unusual to find a highly motivated 10 year old; and even then they may change their ambitions radically as they grow older.

Maybe she is afraid to show enthusiasm because then you will trap her into a future that she knows she might not want in a few weeks, months or years.

Even very successful people were not necessarily highly motivated about anything at 10.

I am harsh to you, because you are an adult and seem to be treating/think about your daughter harshly.

Our children are not there to fulfill our ambitions and dreams, but are independent human beings who will discover their own future. Have you talked to and listened to her teachers? What was your childhood like?

whenInDoubt Thu 29-Aug-13 11:18:29

@Dackyduddles:

Sorry but when did your poor dd become a prize poodle ordered to perform for her master at every opportunity and punished for every answer she gives? No wonder she's giving you nothing. You are demanding everything and looking to find her lacking.

I don't recall punishing her for "every wrong answer", where did you get that idea? What I expressed was a frustration that she lacks a growing awareness of the world around her, and was actually looking for ways to encourage that in her. She is a sweet, good-natured person who I absolutely adore, but I am also responsible for her developing a good attitude towards life, people, work and education, and correcting behaviours that will lead away from that, and I fear she is stagnating. My wife agrees that there are issues though we may differ on the severity, but it is not just me.

Do enjoy her company? What has she done to make you laugh?

A good question. The answer is "sometimes". It's very hard to get time alone with the girls now. If one of them gets it, the other one complains they didn't get it. It's easier to have them both, but that changes the relationship.

Has she ever done anything to make you proud?

School shows, learning to cycle, school reports, cartwheels, calligraphy, cooking skills (chopping, making a good cup of tea), beating her maths demons, joining the school council, befriending shy kids at school, giving me a hug when I am down, learning all the names and traits of Moshi Monsters (even though I hate the runty little pieces of plastic), helping her sister when she's struggling or hurting...

I think you need to re read your op. it's reading extremely negatively and judgmental which is encouraging us to respond robustly.

It's negative because I feel down about a behaviour trait I lack the skills to fix. If I felt positive I wouldn't feel the need to post here.

^ What job do you do? ^

Software engineer.

.....or did your dad judge everything you did....?

Nah. I was the academically brightest of my family (2 brothers). If he judged me, it was usually pride. His baseline was low though, he was the product of a terrible post-war education system, and he seemed like a fish out of water in the latter 20th C.

DeWe Thu 29-Aug-13 11:18:40

My oldest is frightened of being wrong. So this can mean if I ask a question she will say she doesn't know (even though she does) because she's afraid of being wrong.
I suspect you're getting visibly frustrated with her and so she's getting even more worried about being wrong iyswim. That then stops her being able to think properly too.

I would back off on the questioning, and show her instead. So you say, "Hey look, I think this is interesting, this is what happens to the flame..." possibly asking a very easy question, so "as the flame's hot, guess what it does to the air?" If she can't answer that, point out it's like a little heater, and what would she feel if she went near a heater."

For what it's worth, my df used to like to ask lots of questions on sciency things. I loved it, and learn a lot from him, we'd spend hours drawing stuff out, looking at things. And I answered questions wrongly and rightly. My dsis (who was better at science than me) hated it when he did that because she was afraid of being wrong, so she'd freeze and not be able to think properly so wouldn't answer the questions.

I think (as others have said) you need to back off. Praise her lovely handwriting-maybe ask her to write granny's birthday card "because her writing is fantastic". Go on cycle rides with just her- and have a drink/ice cream in a café.
But if she's feeling her little sister is overtaking her, then find her something to do that is hers, and her little sister doesn't do. Maybe you could collect flowers on cycle rides and press them and identify them together, maybe she could start a musical instrument, would she be interested in gardening. Talk with her, ask her what she would like to do. And if her sister wants to do it, then the answer is no, because she needs something that she isn't looking over her shoulder at her sister catching up.

And things like competitions, let her do it, it doesn't matter if she doesn't win, the chances are in big competitions she won't even with a masterpiece. I don't interfere if it's a competition except to look at the finished thing and I might say "I love it, do you want to colour that corner a bit more while I get the envelope?" And sometimes it is obvious to me that their entry is no way going to win, but that isn't really my business to say so.

Your OP comes across to me as saying that you feel disappointed that she is shallow and dim.

perhaps that isn't how you feel. I certainly hope it isn'tsad

MadBusLady Thu 29-Aug-13 11:21:39

She is definitely frightened of being wrong.

Gee, I wonder why that can be?

She recently said she wanted to enter a competition. I said to her "well the standard will be high so it's not enough to just scribble an entry and send it in, you may have to try several ideas and refine the best one until it is of the required standard."

Ah, I think the mystery is solved.

MadBusLady Thu 29-Aug-13 11:29:38

I don't recall punishing her for "every wrong answer", where did you get that idea? What I expressed was a frustration that she lacks a growing awareness of the world around her, and was actually looking for ways to encourage that in her. She is a sweet, good-natured person who I absolutely adore, but I am also responsible for her developing a good attitude towards life, people, work and education, and correcting behaviours that will lead away from that, and I fear she is stagnating. My wife agrees that there are issues though we may differ on the severity, but it is not just me.

Seriously, OP, this passage absolutely breaks my heart. If you are for real, please, please think about what people are telling you here without getting defensive.

She is a "sweet, good-natured person". She "gives 100%" at school. Her teachers like her. She has a good attitude towards life, people, work and education. Whatever it is you want from her, ask yourself why? Why does she need a special talent aged 10? Why does she need a roadmap? Why is a 10 year old "stagnating" because they like reading and food and clothes? Why does she need to be interested in the same things you are? Why (this truly puzzles me) do you think secondary school is going to be a shock for her? Do you seriously think the other 11 year olds will all be on the space cadet programme or something?

I promise you, you are giving her the mother of all perfectionist complexes. This is a horrific amount of pressure to put on a 10 year old.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Thu 29-Aug-13 11:29:56

She sounds outgoing ...has she ever tried performing arts?

insanityscratching Thu 29-Aug-13 11:37:17

Poor little girl sad no wonder she isn't thriving when you are so negative and seem to enjoy setting her up for a fall. My dd is the same age she believes she is brilliant (and she is) and that she can do anything she puts her mind to because we have given her self belief. Your negativity about her efforts will be crippling her self confidence and she won't ask questions and so increase her knowledge because she senses that you are critical of her abilities. You need to look at yourself and your parenting methods with that critical eye of yours rather than focusing it on your dd.

ResNullius Thu 29-Aug-13 11:45:40

OP, I think you need to take time out and reflect on your view of parenting rather than question your childs traits.

This comment Perhaps she thought I was asking her a trick question, as I sometimes do says more than anything else about how you see interacting with this child, whom you love.
Why would you want to trip a child up with trick questions?
What is she learning about how you treat her?
Its your job to guide her kindly to finding answers for HER questions...not to show her she is stupid because you deliberately trip her up on yours.

Can you not see how she may have developed a wariness?

Her teachers say she is doing well.
I assume you have chosen a school you are happy with?
Leave trained educators to educate and, instead, start to become the one wonderful person in the world who is always her supporter, whether she is right or wrong. The one person who will always give her a straight answer.

Not the person who keeps her on the back foot because she doesn't even know if his questions are a trick or not.

MadBusLady Thu 29-Aug-13 11:46:01

By the way, this is just a suspicion on my part, but your younger DD may be more curious and experimental about the world partly because she has never received the full undivided glare (and I use that word advisedly) of your attention on her development. Older children sometimes do cop more of the developmental/academic expectations in this way purely because they reach the milestones earlier.

MadBusLady Thu 29-Aug-13 11:47:00

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

whenInDoubt Thu 29-Aug-13 11:47:02

@mummytime: why do you think she lacks confidence?

This is not the same as why she lacks confidence. And I think the reason is the same or similar to why she hasn't touched fruit since the age of two, or why she has always run away from dogs whilst her sister has always chased after them to pet them - intrinsic fear. We've given them as similar an upbringing as you can given how much a sibling changes the game. She is shy and lacks confidence.

She used to enjoy cookery. Why did she stop enjoying it? Did you push her?

No, in fact the opposite. I don't get much of a chance to cook, let alone with her, and so we don't do it very often. She sometimes has a session with Mum, but that seems to be waning now.

Was she compared with others? Did you say something like "One day you will be on Master Chief"?

Nope. And nope.

Do you tell her you love her?

Yes, every day.

Do you tell her you are proud just for who she is?

Sometimes. It's not a particularly common conversational device other than for times when she is feeling down.

Do you have an attitude that people are either naturally brilliant or not?

Yes. Ish. On a sliding scale.

Do you value hard work?

Yes. But also down time.

Most 10 year olds are not highly motivated

Well this might be the crux of at least some of the matter. If this is the case, then the problems are all in my head. And this might just be my over-anxiety, I'll admit that.

BUT her 8yo sibling is more motivated, communicative, emotionally intelligent, nuanced and sharper than her. This may be how they are, but that in itself is difficult to manage. She doesn't need me to compare her to sis, she will now do it herself, and we can only do what we can to patch the damage she is inflicting on herself.

Our children are not there to fulfill our ambitions and dreams, but are independent human beings who will discover their own future.

Well I agree with that to some extent. But come on, being a parent is not just about sitting on your arse letting your kids get on with it and periodically telling them how clever they are and how much you love them. "Be sure not to inflict your pasions, worldview and wisdom on your children, you are loathsome if you do!" WTF?

I am happy for my daughter to find herself. Godammit if this post was about anything it was bemoaning the fact that she hadn't and my fears that she would struggle to do so.

I am harsh to you, because you are an adult and seem to be treating/think about your daughter harshly.

Oh yeah you're a real adult hiding behind internet anonymity so you can call a first-time poster a bad parent whose kids should be taken into care having read the contents of one post they made when they're feeling frustrated and in need of a bit of advice.

whenInDoubt Thu 29-Aug-13 11:51:08

@MadBusLady

^ Christ, I missed that Res. This has got to be hairy-handed hasn't it. Surely no-one seriously thinks like this^

Like what? Like "here's a thing about the world that you might not have expected, isn't that interesting?" FFS what sort of parent are you if you don't try and get them to have a sense of intrigue and wonder about the world and not take everything for granted?

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