Academic differences between siblings

(67 Posts)
diyfan Wed 21-Aug-13 16:03:21

I didn't know where to post this so please do advise if this is not the correct forum for this question and I'll ask for it to be moved. I am very surprised by the differences in academic ability, or, better still, academic achievement between my children (both primary age) but one getting ready to move to secondary next year. They play well together and get on very well but are different academically. One is top of his class. The other is 'not academic at all' according to his teachers. I know some families whose children, all of them, are doing extremely well academically. Is my situation more common than the other (Research shows that siblings supposedly do not differ much on IQ scores - but this clearly cannot be true) and more importantly, what can I do about it? I am very worried about self-esteem issues impacting on my children's relationship. How can I pull one up to the level of the other? I am interested in insights from other families who have dealt with this issue. Many thanks.

christinarossetti Wed 21-Aug-13 16:19:29

How does the 'not academic at all' child feel about it? What things is she/he good at? Is their self-esteem pretty good?

I always did much better at school than my twin sister and it honestly wasn't an issue for her. We argued about absolutely everything else but not that. My mother downplaying my achievements, whilst making the most of anything she did well, caused more problems to be honest.

Academic attainment is only one thing that people can be good at. Rather than thinking of pulling one up to the level of the other, I'd think about focusing and making much of the things that the other one is good at.

Margetts Wed 21-Aug-13 16:25:38

I have twins a girl and a boy who are 6. Over the past 2 years we have had lots of chats about how everything is good a different things. My DD is very good at reading and has very neat hand writing. My DS has struggled with reading and his hand writing is atrocious, but he has a very good general knowledge and very interested in history. I bribe my children to read every night to try and raise the level of my sons reading. You may need to accept that your child might not be academic but their strengths may be in sport, music or the arts.

lljkk Wed 21-Aug-13 16:44:49

...or they may have no real strengths at all!
(yes, I'm looking at you, DS3).
Or the bright ones may be lazyone emotional basket cases while the dim ones may be diligent charmers, so much more to it than brains.

Main thing I feel is to try to let them know that they are wonderful as they are. You are happy for whatever they achieve (no matter how small), and don't be happier for the high flyer than you are for the bumbling-along child. Try very hard to avoid "I'm proud" and instead try "Are you pleased with how you did?" "Wasn't that fun!"

They say you praise effort rather than results, too, but it's not always practical to do that, they will know that A* is better than B. Be practical, "What would YOU enjoy doing next?" not "It's too bad you didn't get such good results."

I know this one is in my future "I'm not so bothered exactly who got what result, I'm interested in whether you each really tried your hardest."

As you can see, We have to tiptoe around this kind of stuff.

My dad is one of 8 spread across 3 marriages, no certified geniuses but some with impressive academic records & prestigious careers and the others barely have any qualifications to their names, barely staying off of benefits. I dunno, they don't seem to have any self-esteem issues about it.

NotCopingWithSchool Wed 21-Aug-13 17:27:51

Is 'not academic' a code for dyslexia?

Do you really think he's not very bright? Ie do you think his academic ability reflects his intelligence?

If not, you need to start investigating dyslexia type stuff.

That is the common reason why there are huge differences between siblings.

FrauMoose Wed 21-Aug-13 17:39:27

My two step-children were very different. My stepson was considered extremely bright at primary school - though he was very late in learning to read and only really bothered to try once his sister (18 months younger) began to be able to do it. He t got labelled by his mother's family as the bright/clever one. I think it was more than he appeared talkative and confident with adults.

My stepdaughter was shyer, dominated by her brother and not very confident at maths. (She was badly taught at a crucial period which didn't help.) She got labelled 'the good one'.

My stepson passed exams for a selective school. My stepdaughter was not offered a place at the selective school after taking the same tests.

However my stepson had increasing problems at secondary school and had rather indifferent GCSEs considering how bright he was felt to be. The school did not feel his grades were good enough for him to carry on there at A-level - after taking a year out he went to sixth form college. My stepdaughter was a steadier character and progressed smoothly through GCSEs and A-levels.

They both went to university - and the consistency of my stepdaughter's efforts meant she did rather better. She's now in her first professional job while my stepson - recently discovered to he a high-functioning autist - is unlikely to settle to anything more than irregular, casual work for the foreseeable future.

I think different children develop at different rates and have different talents. It isn't always the ones who are perceived as 'clever' who end up doing best. All sorts of other personal characteristics may end up being a lot more important.

I think what is most important is that all children in a family feel equally loved and celebrated.

Procrastinating Wed 21-Aug-13 17:51:37

Mine are very different, they sound like yours OP. The headmistress believes that nurture creates the child's ability so she is very confused by my two.
I tried gently pulling one up to the level of the other but it is impossible, it just isn't him at the moment. I looked into dyslexia too - he doesn't have it. This is worth checking - also eyesight and hearing.

My less academic child is very good at art and has lots of friends so I'm not worried about his self-esteem. That's the secret I think, make sure they have something individual they are valued for. School put so much emphasis on academic ability that you need to balance that out at home. I'm an academic so I find that easy - being 'clever' never got me anywhere I wanted to be!

FrauMoose Wed 21-Aug-13 17:53:39

That's interesting Procrastinating. Where - if anywhere - did your academic abilities get you to?

Procrastinating Wed 21-Aug-13 18:01:49

I'm a lecturer, it is mostly OK but I never wanted to be. I feel that I was chanelled into degree, MA, PHd just because I was good at this stuff. I don't really enjoy it (and sometimes I hate it) although my students wouldn't know that. I just got some feedback for a module I ran, all the reviews were excellent but I had to force myself to get on with it every day.
Being less academic would have given me more options in my life. There must be other stuff I would actually enjoy but I never got to find out. This is why I don't worry about my arty son but I do worry about my academic son.

FrauMoose Wed 21-Aug-13 18:13:11

Oh. Part of me feels that I could have gone down exactly that sort of route but various upheavals - connected with my upbringing - got in the way and I swerved off at a variety of tangents. Very odd having ferociously bright, academically inclined daughter. I feel rather alarmed/protective - rather than straightforwardly proud.

Procrastinating Wed 21-Aug-13 18:32:43

Yes, I feel like that about my son Frau. I was alarmed by his school report and I haven't worked out how to give him a more rounded sense of himself and the world yet. Being praised continually for one thing you do well does not give you any perspective, or any other ideas aside from the conventional ones. If I was rich I'd send him to one of those schools where they play guitar and ride horses.

I think the thing with your daughter is to help her find out whether something academic is actually her vocation and joy, or whether she has just got accustomed to being praised for something she finds easy. God knows how though, I'm working on it!

MiaowTheCat Wed 21-Aug-13 19:20:41

Just please don't do what one mum I came across did. She sat and cross referenced her children's reading diaries from the same academic year and came storming up to school to demand to know why on the 19th January DS1 was on Blue books and DS2 was on Purple books (or whatever - I forget the actual levels involved).

DS1 - confident, very academic, loved a challenge.
DS2 - we were desperately working to draw him out of his shell and give him any confidence at all.

We did resolve it well in the end and she became a really happy helper within the class and one of the parents that were great to have a crack on with at the school gates - but no wonder her kid was as highly strung as he was!

Depends on the kids though - I had an ongoing very strongly fought academic turf war with my younger brother but we were both strong in that area (and I kicked his arse!)

BabiesAreLikeBuses Wed 21-Aug-13 20:10:54

I'm intrigued that a teacher would describe a child as not a all academic - does the end of year report indicate any areas of strength? Self esteem is about how they feel about themselves, i totally agree that an 'everyone has talents' approach works... Then show that you value whatever that may be.

diyfan Wed 21-Aug-13 21:30:29

Thank you everyone for you responses. Procrastinating - you could be describing my life. I, too, am a uni. lecturer, and largely fell into it because I was 'good at it', because it was expected of me and because I didn't have the imgination to explore other options. However, I have learned to love it (after many years) - and education has been extremely beneficial to me. It was a pathway out of a dire situation; a failing school, child of immigrant single mother, poverty. Academia has given me a good quality of life and I am very keen for my kids to achieve academically (not necessarly become academics). 'Puzzled' is a good way to describe how I feel. Ds is not dyslexic, and has good eyesight, hearing etc.. The 'not academic' comment actualy came from the head, in the context of a meetng where we were deciding whether to try the 11+. I think he is reasonably bright, or, could be reasonbly bright, but seems to find schoolwork somewhat difficult in places and therefore does everything possible to avoid it. He is a little bit lazy but not excessively so. He is loved and cherished for who he is but I can't deny that I want them both to achieve academically, if they can. Ds 2 is already known to family etc. as 'the clever one' while DS 1 isn't. I really feel for him but also really, really do want to pull him up to the other one's level. I just don't know how to help him.

Bonsoir Wed 21-Aug-13 21:40:01

I don't think, based on my observation of a reasonable sample of families at DD's very large and somewhat socially selective primary school, that siblings always perform in the same academic zone. I know plenty of families where there are siblings with very different skills and acid and levels of achievement.

Procrastinating Wed 21-Aug-13 21:59:21

That is interesting diyfan, I hope I can learn to love it (14 years service so far!). I come from an unstable and poor background too. I do appreciate what my job has done for my family but it costs me a lot of unhappiness. If you have any tips on learning to love it I would be very grateful.

My non-academic ds also avoids schoolwork that he sees as difficult, although it looks like laziness it is actually due to fear of failure with him. Confidence building stuff that is unrelated to schoolwork tends to help, I got him to start reading on holiday after he'd successfully conquered his fear of surfing. He has to do public speaking at school and I got him to do that by making sure he joined a club outside of school and enjoyed it (I secretly arranged for his best friend to be there). Anything that boosts his confidence in himself seems to boost his schoolwork. But this is just to keep him at 'average' rather than bottom of the class.

HamletsSister Wed 21-Aug-13 22:03:53

Are you certain your DS2 is not bright? I ask as it may be the opposite - he is very bright and bored. He might have switched off, lost interest as he is learning little at school. I am a teacher and, while many of us are hugely experienced, brilliant judges of character and ability, we do get it wrong.

Peachyjustpeachy Wed 21-Aug-13 22:07:22

I am one of 5 kids. My mum kept me off school EVERY Tuesday, when she got her family allowance, because she needed help with the shopping.

As an adult, I asked her why was it always me...Why not spread it about?
She shrugged and said... You were the cleverest, you could catch up.

I was the cleverest and I did overtaken them all, but my eldest sister sagged off at every opportunity, so why didn't she do the shopping with mum?

How academic is their father? I think that there is more likely to be a wider academic gap between children if their parents have different academic abilities/tendencies.

I think it may also be easier to have children with differing academic abilities if the older one is the more academic as having a more academic sibling snapping at your heels might not be fun. However this is a guess, rather than anything born of research or experience.

FrauMoose Wed 21-Aug-13 22:18:55

I am not at all sure why we want our children to be academically bright. (As opposed to fulfilling their potential in some other way.) Sometimes the education system seems like half-factory, half-confidence trick. The professions, which many aspirational parents, want their children to get into have their problems. I know a great many demoralised doctors, the drop-out rate at medical school is very high, teachers are stressed, a young intern at a major stockbrokers has dropped dead and it's being asked whether the long hours culture has contributed to his death.

I am wondering whether skilled tradespeople e.g plumbers, electricians have a better quality of life and more job satisfaction. My background and culture dictates that I should encourage my children to pass exams, then go to a well-regarded university so they can get 'a good job.' But I really do wonder...

LauraChant Wed 21-Aug-13 22:22:13

I have also always found academic work easy - I passed my 11 plus and my sisters didn't. I don't really know how they feel about that. They are both so lovely but I think my youngest sis in particular has some self esteem issues despite being incredibly creative. I think it took my parents a while to see it which is a shame.

This seems to be repeating with DS1 who is incredibly academic aged five, and DS2 who aged three is bright but not reading and doing sums like his brother was at that age (I know DS1 was very advanced). I think it is partly nurture, as DS1 got my full attention for two and a half years and was v demanding so got huge amounts of stories, singing, stimulation etc while DS2 had to fit in around other things. Also I think it is different ways of learning - DS1 is very visual like me and grasped letters and numbers and words by shape very quickly, whereas DS2 is auditory and can remember and recite poems and is good at saying what letter a word starts with. So I need to get my head round that way of learning.

FrauMoose Wed 21-Aug-13 22:29:31

Oh I meant demoralised lawyers, above. And my stepdaughter knew loads of disaffected people who really didn't enjoy university at all - one or two of them dropped out - but were just there because of their parents ambitions for them.

Which is perhaps leaping ahead of the original poster's question. But I wanted to raise the question of where this might end..

ProphetOfDoom Wed 21-Aug-13 22:39:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

diyfan Wed 21-Aug-13 22:44:04

Breatheslowly - father also has a PhD (although currently is not an academic). DS definitely not too bright. His father was like that, got easily bored in class until parents sent him to a private school to keep him out of trouble, where he flourished. He'd be able to spot this issue if it were the case (I think).
Procrastinating - I learned to love the job by getting better at it (took a very long time though). There are still aspects I dislike (like you, lecturing...the worst bit for me. A real struggle although as you describe, students wouldn't know it) but I feel that I 'grew' into the rest of it and now feel comfortable with it. Feel like I belong now. I also genuinely like my research area and feel passionate about it. Wasn't always so but as the years go by, I feel more 'au fait' with it all. 16 years into it so similar timescale to you.
My big confusion is the research that seems to show that siblings do not really differ in their IQ scores. That was my expectation. Also, this awareness that society rewards academic ability and he'll be left behind if he doesn't 'succeed' in this sphere. I think what I'm asking is how to best deal with my fear that he may not succeed academically (although I realise that it's not the end, but I've seen many people struggle in life without academic qualifications. I know that it's not always the case but this is my experience).

While research does show that siblings are likely to have similar IQ scores, there will still be a range of "similarity" and you probably have a slightly unusual set of siblings.

The only family I know who obviously have this is one where the parents don't seem to be similarly academic.

I think I would struggle a bit with a less academic child as I come from a fairly academic background and don't have a wide enough social sphere to know many successful non-academic people (I am sure there are loads out there). So, like you, I would be concerned and perhaps also don't really know the options for careers, using other skill sets etc.

diyfan Wed 21-Aug-13 23:12:28

Breatheslowly - this is part of my fear too; the fact that I may not be able to guide or advise him given that I really have no idea about pathways other than academic ones. Thank you to all for helping me to elucidate this. At the moment, I am banking on what Schmaltzing suggested; that he may find his niche later in life. However, I've been thinking this for a few years now, hoping to see a turnaround. He's average at best and I can see others sprinting away ahead. There's definitely a sense of being left behind. I really worry for him. Would tutoring be a solution? I'm not a fan and can't see much point if he's not that keen himself but is it likely to pull him up to above average?

I think that tutoring is only worth it if there is a deficiency in his existing teaching and it is in an area that builds on itself - so is essential to make progress. A deficiency in teaching is quite a hard thing to define as it could include a teacher not having enough time to spend focused on your DS or a teacher not being flexible enough to teach in a way that your DS "gets", not just having a poor teacher. If there are specific areas that he is weak in then it might be worth trying to get them ironed out. Particularly if they are things that are a focus in primary but not secondary (e.g. handwriting) or things that will hold him back.

You will probably know how he would respond to some tutoring. I loved being tutored when I was at school as I enjoyed the 1:1 attention, but I don't know what it is like to feel like you are struggling at something and then have to do even more of it.

Adikia Wed 21-Aug-13 23:37:38

Academic seems to mostly balance out with other skills tbh. I don't know that you need to worry about the difference between your kids so long as you don't make a big thing of it.

In my family the academic abilities vary greatly but none of us have ever been particularly bothered by it as our strengths are different.

-Big brother got mostly D's and C's at GCSE but is very practically minded and can make anything you ask him, he's now an electrician.
-I got B's at GCSE, and am fairly good at painting and sewing but struggle to even build things with DDs lego. I am doing well at uni, having discovered my academic skills lie in subjects we didn't do at school.
-15 year old sister took 3 GCSE's early and got A*s and got As for her mock GCSEs, she is fluent in Japanese (whilst the rest of us can't even do basic french) and writes brilliant stories, not great with art or building stuff though.
-13 year old brother is top of his class at grammar school, has an incredible understanding of science and is very musical.
-10 year old brother is in top set for everything and is bright but not massively ahead of his friends, he is however very good at sport which none of the rest of the family are.
-9 year old sister gets glowing reports and has decided this summer she wants to be an archaeologist, she's spent most of the summer drawing diagrams of dinosaur bones and different things she has found in her imaginary dig site and researched each piece, she is set to be smarter than all of us.

I would like to point out though that 15 year old sister and I are both dyslexic so I don't think not academic and dyslexic are the same thing.

monkey42 Wed 21-Aug-13 23:50:28

I agree with maany points as above as follows:
1. It is possible to have huge variation in academic ability in one family - my own for a start. (big bro left school aged 16 with a few (hard won) o levels, i went to oxbridge)
2. This difference does not necessarily translate to success in life. Big bro is happily married nearly 25 years from a young age with huge success at work (he's a great bloke, funny, popular, organised). I slogged my guts out, and still do, in a high stress career. I often wonder who got the better deal

so just encourage them to be who they are and do their best but don't expect them to be the same or write them off if they are not

MiaowTheCat Thu 22-Aug-13 07:16:14

In my own case - me - very very bright, bone idle... brother - less bright (but still higher end of the ability spectrum), really dedicated.

I got by by the bare minimum and a photographic memory - he worked really hard - similar results in the end (mine were slightly better)

OverTheFieldsAndFarAway Thu 22-Aug-13 07:34:35

Monkey 42, brilliantly said.
OP, your children are two very different people with different strengths and weaknesses. Stop comparing them, it won't do you or them any good.

ProphetOfDoom Thu 22-Aug-13 08:09:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

diyfan Thu 22-Aug-13 08:56:12

Some great points here. Thanks everyone. I have a fear of 'academic failure' because of my own background. My husband and I are now living a life beyond our wildest dreams (we thank our lucky stars every day) and it is all entirely due to academic success and education (his too, as well as mine). As I've mentioned upthread, I have become happier with greater academic success (even though this has taken years, years and then more years to achieve). I am not implying that I am wildly successful in academia itself - I am fairly mediocre wrt that - but nevertheless, even this mediocrity has brought so much happiness, fulfillment, enjoyment and treasuring of life (I don't think that I would have developed as a person in this way if not for academia) that I never thought possible. As you can imagine, I am VERY keen for my children to achieve academically as I simply can't imgine living this well (and I don't mean just financially) without it. I have seen these developments in my students, and also see every day various extended family members struggle in various ways when not backed by academic qualifications. Life just seems so much harder that way. Logically, I can see that people achieve happiness and success without havng stellar academic qualifications, but in general, I have seen more people struggle without them than with. I do realise though that the children are going to be what they want to be, but I am a great believer in the power of education and don't want my child to miss out.

FrauMoose Thu 22-Aug-13 09:07:31

Firstly, I think the expansion in higher education - and also an expectation that people now get not just one degree but further academic qualifications - mean that a degree does not now open doors in quite the way it used to. Certainly many of my stepdaughter's graduate friends have ended up taking modestly paid jobs with no obvious career development because it was all they could get.

The world has changed - and is continuing to change - hugely.

Secondly, my feeling is that for my stepdaughter who was a 'gradual' developer, coaching for the 11+ was quite harmful. She laboured under an initial sense of failure when not offered a place. It was much better for her ultimately to be in the abler group in a comprehensive school, than it would have been to be constantly struggling to keep up with children who got things a bit faster than she did. With my own daughter, I only went forward with an application for a selective school because she personally identified as one that she wanted to go to. Selective schools can also be quite vicious and 'weed out' students who don;t get high grades, rather than letting them progress to the sixth form. Again this may be de-motivating for young people.

diyfan Thu 22-Aug-13 09:59:04

This is it Frau. It's a global market now. For example, whenever a lectureship is advertised, they have applicants from all over the world and not just from this country (not even a Russell Group uni.). Huge numbers for each post. It must be the same in other jobs too. It's so, so tough now. By the same token, we are, of course, all different and variously inclined toward academia, the arts, music, sport etc.. One of my struggles with all of this is to know how much to push and how much to leave well alone. Nature or nurture? The non-academic DS has never shown any signs of enjoying academia (slow to read and talk, little aptitude for numbers, not particularly observant or interested in the world around him when toddler), which makes me think that he's destined for something else (and we've just got to find it). On the other hand, he shows himself to be reasonably bright on occasion because he can do quite hard maths (very sporadically and unpredictably-def not ASD). In all honesty, I really want to pull hm up as far as he'll go, but at what expense to him and us?

Fraxinus Thu 22-Aug-13 10:21:35

Hi, I don't think you mention what age your children are?

Some children don't 'get' school until quite late... I was a bright kid but didn't understand that you actually had to do your homework for ages!

It seems you have identified the source of your anxiety about academic achievement... I would recommend thinking about what your priorities are for your children, and what their priorities might be as they grow up.

For you, growing up the main priority was possibly financial security and possibly some status. For children growing up in a financially secure family, perhaps the priorities are slightly different.

You have an example of someone who went into academia and is unhappy with it on this thread... I imagine you would not want this for your academic or less academic children.

Good luck helping your sons to find activities that they enjoy, be it for their careers later, or hobbies which make an unsatisfactory working life more bearable.

S4Worries Thu 22-Aug-13 10:46:59

From looking at my large extended family I don't think it is at all unusual for family members to vary in how they present in a school environment.

We have a real mix academically but most of us have done well in life because we share other characteristics such as being conscientious, emotionally on an even keel and being a bit dull to be honest! Maybe we also have reasonable IQ scores, who knows? I think there are some of us who might be mildly dyslexic.

I have one child who is a real eager learner, praised to the skies by well-meaning teachers and one who has struggled in primary. I don't worry too much about the less academic one (who is able in a lot of ways) it's just that there probably won't be the option of "elite" university courses.

FrauMoose Thu 22-Aug-13 10:57:11

Something's been nagging at me, and I've now remembered.

An old schoolfriend of mine and her husband had two very different children. Both friend and husband went to a 'top' UK university. My friend went on to do a PhD and both work in the field of education. They have a son and a daughter. The son was quite literally their blue-eyed boy. He was a very bright, bookish kid and everything they wanted thir child to be. Their daughter was also a lovely person but not someone who was ever the top of the class. In some families her lively, kind personality, her energy and her interests would all have been highly regarded. My friend and her husband were however fixated on her lower marks, and the fact she wasn't like their firstborn.

Their obsession with their son's intelligence and education, and the way in which they made their daughter into a problem both grated on me to the extent that I rather let the friendship drop.

Last time when I contacted my old friend I found that their son - who had intially gone to the same university as his parents - had had a major breakdown, and had just begun his studies from scratch at a different, new university following two years of severe depression spent at home.

My friend told me that 'they'd managed to get (name of daughter) in' to an IT-based degreeat another new university. My sense is that their daughter would probably end up doing fine, though I still feel she has had a raw deal and deserved parents who were a lot more proud of her.

Cheryzan Thu 22-Aug-13 11:49:28

To me it sounds absolutely like you are describing a child with dyslexia.

Slow to talk
Slow to read

How slow?

What makes you think he doesn't have it?

The number of children who get diagnosed with dyslexia in their teens are staggering.

The new term for dyslexia is SpLD - specific learning difficulty. Because it encompasses far more than reading and writing.

If his academic achievement is a long way of what you would expect the most likely explanation is SpLD.

cory Thu 22-Aug-13 17:29:43

No stranger really than the fact that one sibling may be highly musical and another tone deaf (pretty well the case in my family).

Looking at my children: one blond and blue-eyed and the other brown-eyed and olive skinned, I don't really find it odd that they should also differ in other respects: the family tree is clearly a very mixed concoction.

In fact, dd has always been in top set and ds hovering near the bottom set. Dd very good reader, dd very late. But ds has other strengths and I'm not particularly worrying about it.

I have a PhD, my db went to agricultural college and then started out on a manual job. We have both found what we wanted to do in life.

lljkk Thu 22-Aug-13 18:09:23

There's no global market for electricians. confused
(Saying that because all the electricians I know are raking it in, putting the lecturers to shame!)

Lots of successful ways thru life, focusing on narrow definition of success & closely comparing your kids closely : not good.

breadandbutterfly Thu 22-Aug-13 21:09:41

My dd2 is slightly less (obviously) academic than her desperately academic older sister. And I think has mild dyslexia. But it's probably dd1 that I worry about - because dd2 has amazing people skills, maturity etc and is far more obviously likely to succeed in lots of conventional ways. dd1 has amazing potential but the challenge is how to use it.

I really wouldn't worry about siblings with different abilities - I do totally agree with previous comments that (a) everyone has different abilities - in non-academic subjects and social skills etc (EQ as well as IQ important) as well as abilities in academic subjects and (b) that everyone develops at different rates, so your 'less bright' dc may well catch up and overtake your other dc in due course.

In my family, 3 of us siblings were highly academically successful, and went to Oxbridge - one sibling failed A levels and didn't take a degree till his 40s after working his way up through his career (accountancy). He now outearns all his Oxbridge-educated siblings AND was the only one of us to get a first!

So your less-academic dc will almost certainly make his mark in due course. Just try to make sure he feels happy and confident and is unaware of your 'disappointment'. Not because it will stop him being successful, but because he might as well be happy!

Bonsoir Thu 22-Aug-13 21:15:20

I agree with posters who say that academic prowess and success is no guarantee of a happy and successful life. All sorts of jobs and lives bring satisfaction. I'm not sure that academia is necessarily very useful when it comes to entrepreneurial skills, which are those I personally admire and value most highly.

diyfan Thu 22-Aug-13 21:27:29

Thank you to everyone for your time and responses. There are some great comments here. I really want to reiterate that I do not feel 'disappointed' in my less academic child. He is a lovely, beautiful and special boy and I am very lucky to have him. My issue is more to do with the fact that i know from first hand experience how much happiness academic success has brought to my life and I desperately want the same for him, for his sake, not for mine. If I could foresee the future and saw him to be a happy, rounded and responsible individual in his chosen sphere, then I would happily leave well alone! Lots to ponder here so thank you to all.

exoticfruits Thu 22-Aug-13 21:37:40

Mine are very different academically - it as never been a problem because there are so many more strengths and talents than just academic ones.

cakebar Thu 22-Aug-13 22:04:58

What an interesting thread. I think people are such complicated creatures that you can get very different siblings. I have been very successful academically but it is because I am good at understanding what is required, have a good memory and am hardworking. I am not gifted at any particular subject. My husband is gifted in sciences and maths but mediocre at other subjects and has a tendency to miss the point. We knew our combination could result in super genius children or ones that were way more average. We have ended up with a variety of children - dc2 on paper is very average, dc1 excelling. However dc2 has an excellent memory when she tries and is bloody minded, if she decides she is going to do well I think she will, (dc3 too young to tell). All in all I don't think it is odd to have siblings doing very differently.

FWIW my dh is one of 5, vastly different academic results but I wouldn't be surprised if similar IQ but oddly all raised in slightly different circumstances.

ArtemisFowl Thu 22-Aug-13 23:16:30

Different ability or different learning style? I was the not academic one and a bit thick, I remember asking my Mum what remedial meant cos those were the classes I was being put in! I've now the most highly educated of my family. I just didn't learn well the way they wanted to teach me. School is a one size fits most approach and many bright and not so bright pupils are let down.

I'm a very slow learner and it takes me a while to master the basics, however once the basics are covered I learn very very fast. For example when I decided that I wasn't going to be written off and was going to get an education it took weeks to get my head round very basic maths. Yet I then mastered much more complex areas with no problem. It happens with whatever I try and learn, we are not all the same and don't all learn in the same fashion.

tricot39 Thu 22-Aug-13 23:27:46

my dh has turned out to be the most "academic"compared to.his 3 brothers. He is youngest and has ended up self employed with above average earnings. The middle brother left school with few qualifications to become a bricklayer now a contravts manager who did an mba. The eldest is "lazy" but isa self employed plumber who earns over 100k pa easily. As others have said success comes in many forms.

burberryqueen Thu 22-Aug-13 23:39:16

i don't know about the value of 'academic' tbh. with my b/g twins one of whom was starved of oxygen and ended up in 'special ed' at secondary (yes they still call it that) but has a far higher EQ, has caught up with her reading age and beyond, and already has a career plan involving an apprenticeship.
the 'academic' one on the other hand has acted like a pillock and ended up in a PRU, will be lucky to get 4 gcses.

BabiesAreLikeBuses Thu 22-Aug-13 23:40:27

Back to the tutoring question, it depends on age and interests - i once tutored a boy who was academically struggling with a very academic older sister. He was 8 or 9 when i started, a reluctant reader who hated writing. So his mum amd teachers said. He had had a boring year at school which had switched him off and also couldn't handle his mum's anxiety. It was hard work at first, until i discovered that he loved history and that he preferred emotionally deeper stories, so hated 'Horrid Henry' as it was puerile but loved Morpurgo stories. He liked the one to one attention away from parental pressure and came to ask lots of questions about spelling rules, grammar, punctuation, things he'd not felt comfortable askin in school. After 6 months school called mum in amazed as he'd made a year's progress, become a keen reader and an expressive writer - he'd had the ideas and vocab all along. In a year he went up 5 sublevels, got level 5s at ks2 and last i heard was on course for great gcses. I didn't do anything amazing, but one-to-one gave him his confidence and enthusiasm, i wasn't following national curriculum units, just his interests.

My parents value academic success highly and pulled their hair out with their youngest - my brother- a reluctant reader and writer who didn't really try until he got to 15. Guess who is the highest earner now? I think the problem was that they didn't know how to guide the one who didn't fit with their expectations - but in the end he worked it out for himself and studied when he was interested and needed to.

burberryqueen Thu 22-Aug-13 23:59:03

also i must tell you that out of a fair few children my older bro is the only one without a degree, in fact i think he gained a CSE in metalwork, also the only one now to be a millionaire.

In some ways being academic can leave you open to a real shock when you start working. Being the most academically capable isn't the key factor in most jobs, even in 'graduate professions'. The most capable people I have known in my career generally have great social skills, confidence, a strong work ethic and good self-awareness. Being academic may help you to develop those attributes, but it may not. The difficult question is 'how can I help my child to develop those attributes?' And the question is relevant to all children, more or less academic.

exoticfruits Fri 23-Aug-13 07:16:02

Very true, breatheslowly.

PastSellByDate Fri 23-Aug-13 07:22:59


passing the 11+ isn't a definite guarantee of success - it's access to a certain school (or group of schools). Sure it increases your options but that isn't to say that a good solid comprehensive might not also open doors and fire enthusiasm for some area (maybe woodwork, d&T, who knows?).

S-I-L has 3 children.

eldest DD went to Oxford undergrad and stayed for MA - she's working but has had a number of jobs, not great pay yet, and lives with Mum & Dad who still fund a lot of things for her

middle DD went to Durham undergrad and stayed for MA - she's got a serious boyfriend and wedding bells are in the air. No idea if she has job plans and I think she's decided academia isn't for her. We think with her degree teaching may be a good idea - but she doesn't seem to be engaging.

youngest DS - 'the dim one' - has gone to a technical college after doing appallingly on A-levels. He's learning computer repairs, IT, etc... and loving it. He's always loved computers and he's happy and has definite plans for work after College.

Our view as outsiders is 'the dim one' is more fulfilled and probably will ultimately earn more. The two nice middle class girls were great at school work but weren't particularly fired up about their degrees - they enjoyed student lifestyle and their academic success (the cache of saying they're off to Oxford/ Durham) but they haven't gone on to do a lot with it. And that is I fear the real truth. Few do, even if they have 1sts.

So my advice about worrying about a child going into academia is that much like a job in the city - you need to expect long hours, competition and a 'political' work environment. It isn't a quiet backwater any longer. But I think the reality is that many 'professions' are similar.

FrauMoose Fri 23-Aug-13 07:39:48

I've found this thread interesting because I was bought up by educated/academic parents who were very focused on school reports, high marks, good exam results. My father was also obsessed with IQ tests and used to bring them home for me to do.

I am one of three siblings and was also the one who delivered what they wanted.This was a combination of having a particular sort of mind, but also - I think being desperate to please, because their love seemed so tied up with these tests.

However in other ways my parents were neglectful and/or harsh and/or abusive. As a young adult I had excellent exam results and I graduated from one of the UK's best university. Emotionally though I was a complete mess, and neither my parents or my academically supportive teachers had given me any help in what it might mean to be an adult.

I took a variety of low paid jobs in unconventional settings, but couldn't really settle to anything. I had a long illness and a slow difficult return to the world of work. I have never earned above the average wage and I don't have anything like a conventional career.

Nonetheless I have notched up a good many achievements and eventually got to a point where I had a happy and stable domestic life. My education has given me the ability to think and a real love of culture. It also completely and utterly messed me up. A very mixed blessing.

alpinemeadow Fri 23-Aug-13 08:03:43

Diyfan, one of the things you mentioned is your worry about self esteem issues. is there anything ds1 is good at, or would like to try - musical instrument, a sport, drawing, it skills, - that you can foster through lessons, a club etc? Very good for self esteem building - as well as enjoyable!

My observation - would be interested to know if there's research on this! - is that there is no correlation whatever between academic success and a person's future happiness in life. Obviously you want to help your dc do as well as they can, and achieve their potential, but that's a slightly different issue.

cory Fri 23-Aug-13 09:25:57

diyfan Thu 22-Aug-13 21:27:29

"My issue is more to do with the fact that i know from first hand experience how much happiness academic success has brought to my life and I desperately want the same for him, for his sake, not for mine. If I could foresee the future and saw him to be a happy, rounded and responsible individual in his chosen sphere, then I would happily leave well alone! Lots to ponder here so thank you to all."

Just keep reminding himself that even if he had exactly your abilities and exactly your interests he would never end up leading your life. He is him, he will lead his life, he could never under any circumstances lead your life. But his life may be a very good one. smile

diyfan Fri 23-Aug-13 11:15:22

Again, thank you to all. To widen the discussion, there are plenty of stats. to show that graduates earn more than non-graduates (don't know off-hand how much more but easy to find). I can't quote any research on whether academic qualifications lead to increased happiness (although I'm sure it's there). Research shows that happiness is somewhat linked to money in the sense that increased income does result in increased happiness levels, but up to a point. We know that, for example, the Richard Bransons of this world won't be any happier than somebody with a decent, but perhaps distinctly average income (Bernie Ecclestone springs to mind) and we know that poverty is linked to a lot of negative issues (as expected). My own educational experience has shown me many things but its major value has been to educate the whole of me. It's been wider than I could ever have predicted. For example, academic engagement have taught me:
- to really think and reason in about non-immediate issues (this comes from learning about obscure and immediately irrelevant theories, for example, the development of my moral stance on human rights, abuse, 'society', etc.)
- to understand the world (how economics, politics, culture, religion, human relationships etc. contribute to social issues in countries)
- to manage my emotional life (for example, I can now argue calmly and coherently)
-to express myself
-perseverance (oh yes!)
- to find and appreciate beauty etc. in things which I would have simply ignored

All of the above have been directly linked to my personal happiness in life. The most important point for me is that pure, theoretical academic work has directly linked to my development and growth as a person. Not just the transferable skills, which we learn during a degree (and further study) but the actual academic material in and of itself! I firmly believe that engaging in academic work inevitably leads to the development, for the better, of people and thus feeds into human progress. I have appreciated this side of academic study far more than a reasonable salary, which is why I am so keen for my son to follow this path too. I genuinely believe that academic study = happiness.

tobiasfunke Fri 23-Aug-13 11:47:13

I have a phd and my husband has a couple of degrees and a professional qualification (and is probably much better allrounder than me) I do worry how I will react if our DS turns out to be average academically. Not because I feel that academic intelligence is so wonderful and I see many people much cleverer and more successful than me who weren't academic, but because it was drummed into us that that's what mattered.

My cousin is doing a pHd at Oxford and his brother (2 years younger) left grammar school at 16 to become a plumber. His parents despaired but he hated school. However he went back a few years later to do a degree in something more practical and has flourished and has been offered a fab job from his placement. His parents are now more worried about his brother's career path. Interestingly in primary school he was regarded as brighter than his brother. They both get on famously because they took such different career paths and their parents were much more laid back when it came to academic achievement.

The relationship between my sister and I is much more difficult because she was clever but just not quite as clever as me. I have a PhD and she has a degree. Our parents put so much emphasis on academic achievement that although she was always praised and told she'd done well, she looked at me and hated that I had done just slightly better.

I think if your boys talents lie in entirely different directions then it will be much easier for them.

CounselorTroi Fri 23-Aug-13 17:23:38

Just remember that that academic study = happiness for you. Not for everyone. Maybe not for your son. It's ok to love academic study but it's ok to not love it too.

Caff2 Fri 23-Aug-13 20:08:54

This is a bit depressing. My ds1 (13) is only very average academically. He has great skills in many areas. I'd be surprised if he got more than cs or bs at GCSE, and he's going to have to work very hard to do that.

His father and I are both MA educated from RG universities. I hope ds 2 doesn't struggle as much, he's only one, so who knows? But not because I'm disappointed, just I want their lives to be as free of difficulties as possible.

Ds1 is remarkably good looking, popular, confident and sociable, always remarked on by everyone, and he didn't get that from us either!

Caff2 Fri 23-Aug-13 20:13:05

When I say "surprised", I actually mean "amazed". My fear is he comes out with no cs or above.

I didn't want to be one of those who come on and say, "Oh, yes X is not academic, he only got bs and cs, and one a" which is actually very good in the scheme of things!

alpinemeadow Fri 23-Aug-13 22:01:04

Yes I think counselortroi has it in a nutshell - academic study doesn't equal happiness for everyone - how could it? - and either way is absolutely fine. But, of course, you want to help your ds1 as much as you can - what have his teachers suggested?
On the sibling differences, I don't think it's that uncommon - I haven't ever read any research though, just what I've noticed over the years.

DeWe Fri 23-Aug-13 22:18:14

Having been in a family of three that people would have said we were all academic, we were also quite different in the way that we were, if that makes sense.
Dsis was all round, strong in all academic subjects, could have studied anything at a top university with a few exceptions.
I was totally one subject. Couldn't have done anything else, even something mostly related I would have struggled with.
Db was neither as all round, nor as good at his best subject.

Interestingly db was the one who had people holding their breath at this apparent genius child.

But I do disagree with making the praise entirely about effort, and relative achievement. Because even when quite young you can tell that (eg) 10/12 on a spelling test is not as good as 12/12. And when dm told me how proud she was I'd got that much and how hard she knew I'd worked, what I heard was "you won't do as well as your sister who gets 12/12 without working".

And, no dm wasn't ott in the praise, but when the achievements are lower, saying how much effort was put in is actually saying that you can't achieve as well even if you try. It actually put me off trying because I'd rather feel that maybe if I'd worked then I might have done as well, whereas if I;d worked it was proved I wasn't as good.

lljkk Sat 24-Aug-13 07:29:56

Yeah, nothing worse than learning that if you try your hardest you still fail. Better to talk about being happy in your experiences (and achievements) whatever they are.

Happiness isn't having what you want, it's wanting what you have.

Jaynebxl Sat 24-Aug-13 09:23:46

"My issue is more to do with the fact that i know from first hand experience how much happiness academic success has brought to my life and I desperately want the same for him, for his sake, not for mine. If I could foresee the future and saw him to be a happy, rounded and responsible individual in his chosen sphere, then I would happily leave well alone!"

It isn't because of academic success that people are happy, it is because they find their niche and put their efforts into something that suits them. So back off from worrying, help your child find what they have an inclination towards and watch them be happy in their chosen way.

alpinemeadow Sat 24-Aug-13 17:08:30

The thing is though, none of us can foresee that future for any of our children, however academic or not. All we can do is try to help our dcs find their strengths, and help nurture those. (as well as encouraging them if they want to do things they're not that good at of course - nothing wrong with a hobby you enjoy even though you're not that brilliant at it!) Can the school advise if there's anything ds 1 is particularly good at or enjoys? What does his dad think?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now