I think I'm living my life through my kids

(20 Posts)
Dmummyd Tue 26-Jun-12 20:58:23

Long post- apologies in advance.

Was going to post this is AIBU - but i know im being unreasonable!! I have 2 kids - 8 and 3. They are lovely, bright and smart kids which I'm thankful for, but I think I push them too hard! My dd is only 3.6 and I'm so hung up on teaching her to read and write. She enjoys it most times but then I think I overdo it.

My ds is tops for everything in his state school. He's quite a sensible little boy who enjoys school, he's not struggling at all, but I always make him to workbooks almost daily. Again, he has days that he'd gladly do it, and days he'd grumble.

I just recently admitted to myself how important it is for ME for them to be on top, and I feel it's unfair on them and it probably comes across in my expectations of them.

My ds is moving to an independent school in September and he had a taster day last week, he told me all about the sports and fun things they did, trust me to be concerned about the academic work he did. And I found out he was not put on the top table! And I cant believe how much that bothered me! He couldn't care less! I've been so hung up on that - and I know immreally just being very unreasonable but I can't seem to be able to help myself.

I had a good education and I have a great job, and I'm quite busy, so it's not that I'm trying to make them do what I wasn't able to. But I just realized that maybe their success affirms me in some sort of way! I'm used to always hearing fab comments about them, that I don't think I can handle hearing anything else.

I don't know how to get out of this cycle and just let them be kids and enjoy themselves, top table or not!

fivecandles Tue 26-Jun-12 22:23:32

I think you've answered your own questions really.

It's so great that you've acknowledged the problem and what to solve it and that puts you in a much better position than all those parents who don't realize what they're doing.

I'd say the main thing is to look at what's missing in your own life that makes you so hung up on your kids' achievements. Might be worth speaking to a counsellor or close friend?

It's important to be supportive and offer your kids as many opportunities as possible but I think being over pushy is usually counterproductive. It's important your children know that you love them whatever their achievements. Keep telling them and yourself that.

Bashfulblue Wed 27-Jun-12 10:23:53

I agree - the big thing here is that you've been able to see what you're doing. That's a massive step towards being able to change it. I think you've been incredibly honest - I bet there are a huge number of people who feel similarly to you, but I doubt many of them will admit it even to themselves. The reality is that at some point all of our children will make mistakes, not come up to our/their own expectations, go through a difficult time etc, and it's about how we cope with those times without making it worse for them. As fivecandles says, being too pushy might actually work against them in the end.

I'd say keep your honesty going - look at what's in it for you, be mindful of the messages you're giving to your DC, talk about it with someone you trust - and well done for being so open.

breadandbutterfly Wed 27-Jun-12 10:43:41

I'm like that with my eldet but not my other two - I think with my pfb there was the fear that if I didn't push her she wouldn't achieve - with the others I realised they would learn stuff eventually whatever i did! so the pressure's off. But pressure can be positive too - i think my kids succeed mainly because I expect them to do well and have a can-do attitude. Many kids don't get that at home or have parents who fear they'll fail so don't push them. Which is letting them down in a way - kids don't always have the confidence they can achieve stuff unless their parents believe in them.

Be aware of the positives - you are teaching your dcs that they can achieve with effort and how to do this. As long as you're not haranguing them or shouting at them if they get it wrong, or ignoring their non-academic development, then don't feel bad for wanting your kids to be successful. It's natural. And re the top table, it may be that your ds will move there or he may not, he'll find the right level. You want him to achieve the best for him, not the best in the whole universe = impossible.

But knowing you've helped your kids achieve the best they can is not something to bw ashamed of, the opposite.

wordfactory Wed 27-Jun-12 11:00:54

OP it's wonderful that you have high aspirations for your DC. I do too! But it has to be aspirations for them. Not for you through them.

Perhaps you could set yourself some things to achieve? Things you can excel in, that have nothing to do with your DCs?

Once you do that, you can still give your DC lots of support and still have high aspirations, but the anxiety will be much reduced.

wordfactory Wed 27-Jun-12 11:03:02

Also OP, you need to come to terms with the fact that your DC in all likelihood won't be the best artist. The best runner. The best linguist. The best public speaker.

And you don't wnat your disappointment to spill onto them.

jubilucket Wed 27-Jun-12 11:10:21

Hi OP, I think most of us suffer from this syndrome a bit... you've made the step of recognising it before you turned into a helicopter who would go into massive empty nest syndrome when your lovely dcs leave home in a frighteningly few years time. So take it one step at a time. What have you not done that the pre-mummy you was going to do but never got round to? Start planning it.

Thewomanwithnoname Wed 27-Jun-12 17:47:22

My MIL a difficult woman to say the least was/is very very similar to you. If you said she was pushy it would be a bit like saying the pope has catholic leanings! She pushed and pushed there were work books from an early age and reading and writing and tables and "just do a bit more to get ahead" she was completely obsessed about top tables top exam marks top schools etc etc. Both my SIL and DH are very bright and went to top London day schools but neither went to university my SIL dropped out at the end of what is now called yr 12 and my DH got disappointing A level results and refused to retake them because he couldn’t stand it anymore.
When my nephew was born they lived close enough for her to start on him workbooks and flash cards and reading and spelling before he could even sit up. Sadly he now hates her like poison and wont go over to see her.
Both my SIL and DH are in their late 40’s my SIL positively hates my MIL and my DH rarely goes to see her and only rings about once a months.
The moral of the story: “don’t live your life through your children.”

Enjoying their achievements is wonderful. Pushing them so they are anxious to achieve to please you is, in the end counterproductive and fosters anxiety and resentment. With supportive and encouraging parenting, most children will do as well as they are able..and that's how it should be. Pressure however can easily turn from positive to a VERY negative thing.

I should know.. I was a very bright girl, who went on to a super selective school for bright girls.. and the pressure to achieve was immense; the school still has some of the highest GCSE and A level results anywhere. It also had an exceptionally high number of anxious stressed kids, way too many with anorexia, and many who lost sight of what THEY wanted because the pressure to be the best came from well meaning parents. I was very lucky in that my parents assumed I would do my best and put very little pressure on me (just as well as post degree I promptly married and had children grin)

I have a two very able daughters and two less able sons. I have had to be very careful , through the years not to compare..not only between siblings but the casual 'oh you got 89% on your test? That's fantastic! How did (clever best friend ) X do?' as even the subtle stuff like that can eventually make children feel that they are never QUITE good enough for Mum and Dad.

I think you are very brave..and sensible to be recognising your need for them to be top now, because you can make steps to relax.. or if in your head you can't relax..to make sure that nothing is actually SAID to you children. I have to admit I was never the least interested in my children being sporty but was an academic snob... turns out my youngest has autism, learning diffs and is never going to be independent. Bit drastic but it cured me of my snobbery and just made me grateful for the smallest achievement!

You sound a lovely and very self aware person and I'm sure you can keep a realistic grip on expectations!!

I think you sound like a great Mum, OP. Don't beat yourself up too much- you only want the best for your children and that has to be a good thing, but always wanting them to BE the best is not so good. I saw a lot of myself from a few years ago in your post. My DCs are older now- ( nearly 17 DD and 14 DS) and it has taken me a few years to separate their academic abilities and progress from everything else.

Both have been away at school this year and so everything they have done has been entirely by themselves- for the first time my DS has had to organise is own life, do his homework, revise for exams etc and he has made great progess- nowhere near the top at all, but the pleasure he had out of ringing me up this week to tell me that he had got an A for his end of year science exam "all my myself".

Over the last year I have had more pleasure in comments from their teachers, house staff and parents of their friends that they are lovely kids, polite, funny, interesting people than comments on any school work.

They have both dropped extra-curricular hobbies and taken up new ones of their own choosing and are really happy. You just have to learn to let go!

If you DS is doing well at school, then he really doesnt need to do anymore at home. Home at age 8 is for having fun, playing games ( card games can be both fun and educational!) and reading books for fun. Leave the workbooks to the school!!

Dmummyd Wed 27-Jun-12 23:39:58

Thanks everyone. Your kind words are very comforting. I managed to make it through today without nagging my ds to complete his worksheet for today!

Funny enough, my 3 year old dd was hounding me for 'homework'! I'm going to completely stop all formal work with her. I'll just keep reading to her.

With my ds..... I really have to try to let go! I've just been so used to pushing him...

I need to come to grips with the fact they can't be the best and it doesn't make them any less special.

I was never the best, I was quite smart in school but no where near outstanding- but I went on to get a good degree in uni. So when I think of it, I know they'll turn out well without my giving endless worksheets, they only need my support.

I really need to find something else to channel my energy into!

Thanks once again everyone.

Bashfulblue Thu 28-Jun-12 09:12:06

Also, while we're on the subject, the people who do best at school are by no means guaranteed to do best in life. The most successful person in my year was a total disaster at school - and for quite some time afterwards - before suddenly making it big.

Not that I'm always very good at remembering this for my own DC - but I'm glad I've got it to pull out when needed!

shootingstarz Thu 28-Jun-12 09:27:15

There is nothing wrong with helping your children do well at school BUT you should try to make it more fun, you don’t want them rebelling when the work is really important. There are lots of fun ways to help you could play shops where your younger child has to buy things and your older child has to add up the cost. Take them in the garden and get them to draw and label the plants. Dissect a cow’s heart (older child) make up plays and act them out together. Also scrabble is a great educational game for all ages. Just make it fun, they’re only little for such a short time….. enjoy it

cory Fri 29-Jun-12 09:26:08

If you are keen on encouraging a love of learning in your children, I think the best way is to let them see how much you enjoy learning. So take some of that time from reading with them and spend it on reading for yourself. Let them see how excited you are by it. Tell them appropriate snippets of what you have read, a good story, something you learnt from the papers. Don't make it about them all the time, let it be about you. Let them see that education is for everyone and that it never stops.

Do you feel you underachieved academically yourself?

Moomoomie Fri 29-Jun-12 09:36:13

What is success in your eyes?
In mine, it is not leaving school being a straight A student. It is, leaving school having done the best they possibly can. Being a well rounded social member of society.
Not all children can be top of the class, but they can all be caring, empathic and have good listening skills. All of these skills we get you a long way in life.
I'm not saying your children are being brought up like this, but, it is worth continuing to take stock, and re-evaluate what you want.

BabyGiraffes Thu 05-Jul-12 14:32:08

Just thought I'd mention that private schools tend to group children on taster days in a way that the work is easy, so as not to frighten them off! This is probably why your son was not at the top table.
Wishing you the best of luck. You sound like a very caring mother and recognising that you may be too concerned is the first step towards changing it.

Xenia Thu 05-Jul-12 15:07:01

A bit of extra work won't kill them. You have to decide your own balance on these things. I also think it depends how it's done. If it is a bit of extra work and you're all quite happy with it, that's fine. If it's physically holding them down and shouting at them then that isn't fine.

Ours went / go to private primay schools and you might find if the other children are quite bright he is no longer top of the class but that might even egg him on to do even better so a good thing in a way as he'll have more children in the class able to work at his level, win win all round.

TroLoLoLo Fri 06-Jul-12 13:43:09

I don't think a bit of gently pushing is wrong at all as long as they grow up knowing you value them for being them and not just for being clever/sporty or whatever. When they are teenages It's best if they work because they want to rather than to please other people. I have made a point of not checking my teenage kids homework and of not nagging them to revise for exams. It makes them feel proud when they do well on their own account. It does depend on the child though.

learnandsay Mon 19-Nov-12 13:15:25

I don't think there's anything wrong in teaching young children to read, (and write too if they want to.) In fact I think it's good parenting. I think it's good parenting to be interested in and supportive of one's children throughout their education. Making them do exercises when they don't want to though is probably a bad idea. I think it would make more sense to fund a fun way of learning the same lesson. That's harder for a parent to do. But that's just tough for the parent, but making learning fun isn't impossible.

As far as having an obsession with whether or not they're on the top table goes, I'm not sure. It might be the result of simply being a competitive person. It reminds me of the stereotypical "football dad" who screams from the touchline and tries to assault the referee. If the two things are related maybe it's time just to ask yourself is this form of competitiveness appropriate? I don't think there's anything wrong with being competitive but perhaps it's what you do with it that matters.

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