What to do with a disappointed father on his daughter's GCSE results

(85 Posts)
DeiseGirl66 Fri 22-Aug-14 00:47:35

My husband left school in the 80s with just three O Levels, despite being very bright. He blames his poor attitude to school on his lack of academic success (the classic, chippy working class boy), but also believes that his teachers and parents could have done so much more to push him to meet his potential. He went on to achieve an honours degree in his early thirties, but feels that his early underachievement has held him back throughout his career. He therefore had very high hopes for our DD, who completed her GCSES this year. Bright, creative, with a naturally enquiring mind, she breezed through the Key Stage 2 SATS and by the end of Year 9 was predicted to achieve a cluster of A*s and As in Year 11. My husband's aspirations for her extended beyond even Oxbridge - he believed that scholarships to Yale or Harvard were within her grasp. These expectations were not entirely misplaced. At the age of three she wanted to be a palaeontologist and she achieved a score of 135 in a non-verbal IQ test at the age of 11. But having always found learning so easy, she took her foot off the peddle a little bit in the final months leading up to the exams, especially in the non-science subjects. Today's GCSE results were therefore a reality check for both father and daughter. One A* in Additional Science, 4 As in maths, core science, Italian and Religion, and Bs in the two English papers, History, Drama and ICT, might be considered a very solid set of results and are enough to get her into the Sixth Form of her choice. She appears to be delighted with her results and is staying out with friends tonight to celebrate. But my husband has been brooding on the Bs in English and History and the lack of an A* in maths all day, and his disappointment has tarnished any sense of celebration or achievement that we might have enjoyed in the family home. Writing this, I can only feel sad that so much expectation is being placed now on pupils to achieve A*s and As, not just with my husband and daughter but from society in general, that anything less seems inadequate. Can a 16 year old child's future aspirations really be dashed at this stage, just because of these results? How do I manage my husband's disappointment, which I believe is a projection of his own sense of failure?

goodasitgets Fri 22-Aug-14 01:41:43

In the nicest possible way, he needs to give his head a wobble. He can be inwardly disappointed for a moment, but he needs to congratulate her sincerely, be happy for her and not show ANY disappointment. It's also her life, not his and he can't live it through her
I say this because I'm 14 years on and I haven't forgotten the comment I got about my results from a parent, it really really hurt me

BewitchedBotheredandBewildered Fri 22-Aug-14 01:57:33

Oh dear, where to start.

Your husband needs to hide or manage his feelings about your daughter's results. If he expresses disappointment he will drive her away.
I'm not surprised that she has stayed out tonight to celebrate, how very sad.

If you are really surrounded by a 'society in general' that expects A*s and As
then I suggest you address that too; thousands of families across the country will be celebrating 5 x C or above.

How do you manage your husband's disappointment?
It's really his job to manage that, ideally by just realising how idiotic he's being.
Tell him to stop projecting, he's being an arse. Tell him to grab your daughter and tell her she's wonderful.

Your daughter has done brilliantly.
Please tell her that.

And give her these flowers from me.

AcrossthePond55 Fri 22-Aug-14 02:44:11

Tell him that she is a young woman to be very proud of and that he needs to count his damn blessings! And that if he says one word to her of 'disappointment' you will personally boot him into the middle of next week!

josieboo Fri 22-Aug-14 02:54:57

A few years back, when I got my GCSE results, I was delighted and ran home to tell my dad, only to hear that he was disappointed I wasn't awarded higher grades ( I got A's and B's). It completely ruined all my happiness and all of my celebrations. He did the same for my AS and A2 results, however at A2 my lovely brother told him off for ruining my moment smile

Moral of my story - tell your husband he has got to stop brooding and realise that your daughter's results have nothing to do with him. Otherwise, like me she will end up remembering for years how her dad ruined the results she worked towards for 2 years!

FamiliesShareGerms Fri 22-Aug-14 03:02:23

Yup, I still remember my mum's underwhelming response to my exam results. I know 25 years on I should be over that, but it still sticks in my mind...

goodasitgets Fri 22-Aug-14 03:14:01

Also you may end up in a situation where she feels nothing she do can live up to her expectations of him. I may be projecting a little here but it's a horrible way to be. I was also that child that did really well, slipped a little at GCSEs and tbh nothing I have done has ever been good enough, and the parent makes that quite clear. We are now NC

She is who she is... In the grand scheme of things and her whole life ahead, in 50 years time, will anyone really remember what grade she got at GCSE? And she could retake in future if she wanted to

summerends Fri 22-Aug-14 03:59:36

Three comments. First if he really cares about her fulfilling her potential then that will only happen if she feels that he is there to support her through ups and downs rather than criticise.
Secondly GCSEs are likely to be a poor parameter of her creative, enquiring ability. Her talents may in fact only shine through post education. She does need space to develop her own aspirations and path.
Thirdly if she could have put more effort in then he should focus on praising her results which involved the most difficulty and work for her, even if they were n't her best grades.

MinesAPintOfTea Fri 22-Aug-14 05:18:05

My dad did this. He needs a loco up the bum and to appreciate the hard work your dd put in. IQ tests at age 3 aren't a guarantee of Oxbridge.

MinesAPintOfTea Fri 22-Aug-14 05:18:07

My dad did this. He needs a loco up the bum and to appreciate the hard work your dd put in. IQ tests at age 3 aren't a guarantee of Oxbridge.

skinnedflowerpot Fri 22-Aug-14 06:49:00

IQ tests at age 3 aren't a guarantee of Oxbridge

No, but with an IQ score, even at 3 of 135 I think someone needs to look at why the performance was not better. Someone has to say it. That score puts your DD into the top 5 percentile of the population and in my day would have given a clutch of good "O" Levels ( grade A GCSE).

I also agree though that he ( and you) need to congratulate her and look to the future. She doesnt need to feel she has failed at this point. She clearly has a good brain. She should be able to achieve good A level results and go on to a good university even if not Oxbridge. That may have to be for post graduate study now.

Congratulations to your DD.

Madrigals Fri 22-Aug-14 07:02:29

The iq test was at 11 if I have read the op correctly.

Op you need to tell him three things:

1) her performance is good
2) he will damage his relationship with her if he is negative about her results
3) all is not lost. She can still get into Cambridge if she wants to, works hard, does a good interview and gets good AS grades.

Finally, success in exams is not the only predictor of success in life - attitude and personality are far more important in the long haul.

Even professionally, Oxbridge etc are not the be all and end all. I work in the city and the majority of the most successful in my group didn't go to Oxbridge at all but to good Russell Group unis and have solid 2:1 degrees.

LilyandGinger Fri 22-Aug-14 07:11:59

Does your daughter want to go to Oxbridge, Yale, Harvard etc?

It's not his choice

GalaxyInMyPants Fri 22-Aug-14 07:12:48

And remember haven't english grades really dropped this year? A b this year probably would have been an a last year.

skinnedflowerpot Fri 22-Aug-14 07:21:23

The iq test was at 11 if I have read the op correctly

Then even more reason to ask questions. .

Purpleflamingos Fri 22-Aug-14 07:23:39

You need to override your husband if he doesn't get a grip and let her know how proud you are of her. Dnephew told me he'd failed everything. When we worked through it he's got a c in English, c in maths, d's and e's in everything else

loveableshoulder Fri 22-Aug-14 07:32:10

My dad is like this. He didn't speak to me all day on a level results day, despite my 4 a grades, because I told him I wasn't going to go to the university HE thought I should. The whole situation deeply affected my relationship with him and nearly broke me.

All because I was 'the clever one'.

BobPatandIgglePiggle Fri 22-Aug-14 07:41:39

Writing this, I can only feel sad that so much expectation is being placed now on pupils to achieve A*s and As

There's really not. A very low % of children got A*s. Your dh hasn't put 'expectation on a pupil he's put it on his daughter.

I sat my maths GCSE a year early (20 years ago - mine was one of the first years allowed to do this). The maximum mark I could get was a C.

I was so proud when I got it - put the certificate on the fire place at home. Dad joked (genuinely, he wasn't mad about exams etc) 'you should have tried for an A or a B'

I was devastated. I tore up the certificate and cried all night. Dad was gutted but I still remember it.

Your daughter has done seriously well and needs to be told and shown that by both of you.

joosiewoosie Fri 22-Aug-14 07:43:26

Tell him to get a grip!

Being a 'working class done good' boy himself, he should be able to acknowledge the effort your (clearly bright) DD has put in.

Just for a bit if perspective for him, I worked my socks off all through school only to get average or below results at GCSE ( think mostly c's) and A'level (so I chose to retake A'levels for another year).

I didn't really come into my own until degree level, when I was free to fully immerse myself in my studies.
I ended up with a high 2.1 degree, being the outstanding student of the year in my chosen postgrad path, and reached the 'top job' in my part of the profession by my early 30's, which was very uncommon at the time.

I use the fact that I 'failed' my A'levels first time quite often to illustrate to those feeling they needn't try as they are not good enough, or those lacking a bit of motivation, that a bit of persistence and effort eventually gets you places.

Sounds to me like your DD ought to be celebrating hard! Maybe your DH can make her weekend special with some heartfelt gesture of his pride in her attributes as a person, as well as her great results.
Good luck x

DeiseGirl66 Fri 22-Aug-14 10:40:42

Thank you all so much for your positive responses. Dd hasn't come home yet from her sleepover and husband is at work so I have time to reflect on your words of advice and prepare to smooth the way. There is a bottle of Cava chilling in the fridge which we can open this evening. Before I read the threads this morning I found myself thinking about how my own parents reacted to my results, all those years ago. Like Dd I was the clever one and the eldest. My parents, especially my Dad, had high expectations for me. This was in Ireland in the 80s and both Mum and Dad had successfully risen from poor, rural upbringings to middle-class professional success. When I got my Inter Cert results they celebrated the 2 As and 7 Bs and dismissed the D in maths with the words "Sure no one in the family has ever had a head for maths!" When my Mum came running into the cafe where I was working waving my Leaving Cert results around delightedly, you'd swear I'd got all As, instead of the much more reasonable A, Bs and Cs that I'd achieved. To this day there are people in my small town who were present that day who think I'm a genius. And when I only achieved a pass degree after three years of partying in Uni, they sat at my graduation ceremony and declared it was one of the proudest days their lives. Nothing was ever said about the fact that a third class degree would earn me considerably less in my chosen career, something that I've worked hard to rectify through post-graduate study since. I never really appreciated the importance of my parents whole- hearted celebration in my academic successes and relative under-achievement until today. Thanks to your no-nonsense advice, I'll be mindful of this when Dd comes home. But as one poster said, the 135 IQ score means that her intelligence and potential is significant and, as she now begins to focus in on her scientific strengths, I think it's fair to set the bar high for A Levels.

Andcake Fri 22-Aug-14 10:51:19

I remember my brothers a level result day over 20 years ago - he only got a bcc despite v high expectations my mum didn't get dressed all day. My bro was the youngest but seen as clever - I've resented him my whole life but that day he talked about how the year before it had been easy for me a levels abb) as no one expected anything of me where he had the weight of expectation on him.
Go easy on her yes she should have done better but what's her dream not her dad's. Do her results give her access to what she wants to do next. I also know a chap who had average gcses - did v well at a level - took a gap year - spent a bit of time at a USA ini- reapplied got into Oxford and know is lecturer at a Russell group uni. It's not over!

Years after uni when when I flunked something I remember my dad said ' it's not what you've got its what you do with what you've got that's important'.

DeWee Fri 22-Aug-14 13:12:30

I don't think responding "those are great results you should be thankful" is actually that helpful.

They might be brilliant for person A, out of this world for person B, but disappointing for person C.

If I give my df as an example. I expect his parents thought he was brilliant. He got low A-level results, but no one else in the family had got beyond CSEs before, and I'm not sure many of those. For him to take Olevels and Alevels and a degree put him in the genius catagory to them. His actual results by todays standard you'd not even glance at.
Academically he's better than dm, I think, she got 3 A grades at A-levels. But one of her brother's a professor, and another a top research doctor, so her family was pleased, but didn't place her in the exceptional catagory.
But also df could have got a lot better. He failed the 11+ due (probably) to difficult family circumstances. Although he was given the option of going to the Grammar at 13+ and for the 6th form he chose not to.
He was the only member of the 6th form for the time there, did his A-level maths at the same time as his teacher (and got a better result!) and studied another A-level at adult night classes as the school couldn't offer it.
He also during that time held down two jobs (behind a bar and on a farm!) so he could pay to do those night classes, and for the motorbike as his only way of getting to school (no school bus for over 16s) and to give his parents some money as they'd assumed their children would be wage earners from 16.
This did mean that df was determined that we would have the support he didn't have. He was quite miserly growing up, but if we could persuade him we needed it for work he was outstandingly generous. If one of us hadn't achieved as we had been expected to at 11, he would almost certainly have blamed himself.

I know now that my dsis was disappointed with her GCSE results. She got better (no A* results then) than this, but there was one particular subject she felt she should have done better. It was one of her best subjects, and it was the first year of GCSE and somehow a blip occurred and there were very poor marks awarded in that subject in three of the schools in our area.
The story I heard later was that those three schools had the same examiner, who had marked really harshly, and no one had thought (back then) of moderating across the examiners. The exam board said they would remark up to a certain number of exam papers, so naturally the school focussed on those who missed on a C, or a pass mark. All were put up at least one grade.
I don't think my parents were disappointed-I remember them being thrilled with the results, and it was only in later years I realised that dsis had been disappointed.

I suspect your dh is feeling that he is to blame from what you said. Because he feels he would have done better with more support, so he is now projecting and blaming himself.

I would just say to him that he needs to hide his disappointment, but I would add that I don't think it necessarily barrs her from Oxbridge applications, if she wants to do it. assuming she is that good in the subjects she wants to do. Really Oxbridge will not worry as long as she is demonstrating the necessary standard of the subject she wants to do. There were people I was at Oxford with that had far worse GCSE results, but had the ability in their subject.

happygardening Fri 22-Aug-14 17:18:07

My "dear" MIL was always disappointed by my DH's and SIL's stellar achievements even when they got 99% it was why didn't you get 100%? Both left home at the first opportunity, and my DH didn't really speak to her for over 10 years and my SIL has never really reconciled her differences with her.
Please don't let your husband be disappointed in your DD in the end it will come back to bite him and that will be such a shame.

Mutteroo Fri 22-Aug-14 23:40:09

Please give your DH a good talking to! Your daughter has achieved fantastic results and has another two years of school to learn and grow and achieve even greater success. Best of luck to her for sixth form.

Pico2 Fri 22-Aug-14 23:59:54

I don't think that a load of strangers on the internet can tell whether they were a great set of results or not. We don't know your DD, don't know any other things going on in her life, don't know the quality of the school and teaching in individual subjects. I have taught pupils who would never have been able to achieve those grades and others that would or should have been disappointed by them. Similarly in my adult life I know people who didn't work for their GCSEs and wish they had put the effort in to fulfill their potential.

Obviously you need to move on from this point, there is no point in your DH holding on to his feelings of disappointment as it doesn't do anything for him. As you know your DD, you should know whether there are lessons that she should learn from this to help her achieve what she wants to at A level or whether you should be celebrating, or a mixture of both.

At your DD's age, my mother would very occasionally say that my father was disappointed in me (generally behaviour related) and it was bizarrely the thing that hit home most. Your DH's disappointment may actually drive your DD to excel at A level. But I would guess only if it is expressed and then moved away from, nagging about it would probably cause rebellion. Again, only you will know whether this might do something for her or not.

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