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to be saddened that DC is wasting academic potential?

(157 Posts)
Smokerings Mon 19-Nov-12 22:16:47

I feel a bit if a cow really but I am really dissappointed in my DC's aspirations.
Just gone 14, academically exceptional. Top of the year in a grammar.
Has decided to aim for a career in graphic design.
I know that being happy and job satisfaction is the most important thing we could hope for our offspring. And I know that graphic design is a highly regarded career, but I'm saddened at the lack of desire to use a brilliant mind.
It will possibly all change over the next few years, but I'm agonizing over this potential waste. And hating myself for being bothered by the lack of ambition.

(namechanging regular as I'm a bit ashamed of my thought process, tbh)
(please please don't think I'm being disrepectful regarding Graphic Design, it's just not as academic as this child could achieve)

sleepdodger Tue 20-Nov-12 07:17:20

My mum was you circa 99 when doing a levels... I found languages pretty straightforwards but dull and unchallenging so did design etc
Many a row ensued
I then did an art based degree (more parental disparity saved only by going to a red brick uni)
And you know what.. After 10 years in a design related industry I have held a ft job the whole time on a generally lucrative salary... Point being they'll do best in what the apply themselves to rather than natural aptitude sometimes
And btw I know many wealthy graphic designers grin

LoosingBattle Tue 20-Nov-12 07:18:03


I was top of my year for lots of things. Got a perfect set of Highers/Advanced Highers (all As). My aspiration - to work in a supermarket. 10 years on I am completing my degree with OU as I realise how foolish I was and it is bloody hard work. I will never ever reach the potential I could of if someone had pushed me in the right direction.

janey68 Tue 20-Nov-12 07:29:12

Read the op. The young person in question doesn't aspire to working in a supermarket. S/he plans a career in graphic design. For anyone (and especially the parents) to assume that's not 'good' enough is an indictment on them not the young person

LoosingBattle Tue 20-Nov-12 07:36:27

I 'planned' a career in a supermarket. I managed stores for 10 years, but it isn't the same as doing something more academic - which is what I wish I had done.

janey68 Tue 20-Nov-12 07:41:21

I still think you're trying to make a parallel which doesn't apply to the ops case. You wanted to work in supermarkets, did it for 10 years, then realised this wasn't what you actually wanted to do.

The young person in the op simply aspires to go into an interesting and creative career and his/her mother is being a snob and deciding its not 'good enough'. If the op tries to steer her son/ daughter away from what they aspire to do then I think that's awful.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Tue 20-Nov-12 07:54:29

As someone who had a Brilliant Mind™ at school I think they're massively over-rated as an indicator of what kind of work you'll enjoy and be good at. I've never had the slightest desire to be a doctor or a lawyer or any of those classic things. I'd have been utterly rubbish at them and hated them. A brilliant mind just means you have ONE basic entry-level requirement for those careers - other attributes like level of sociability, resilience, personality in general are just as important.

I also think it shows staggering maturity and good attitude on the part of your DC that they are more interested in the subject they aren't as good at than the subjects they are naturally gifted in and don't have to try at. I'm a bit baffled that you don't see what a good thing that is TBH. It indicates resilience to initial failure and a lack of ego about trying and trying again - these are among the most important lifeskills of all. You've done well!

My guess though TBH is that this is the first "profession" outside the normal, predictable ones that your DC has heard about and they've latched on to it a bit. At 14 I would be seeing it as an early indicator of the kind of things they want their career to involve - design, dealing with clients, solving problems etc. Those could come into lots of careers.

janey68 Tue 20-Nov-12 07:55:29

Excellent post mulledwine

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Tue 20-Nov-12 07:58:59


BeckAndCall Tue 20-Nov-12 08:00:25

Hi smokerings - I'm going to pretend the rest of this thread didn't happen and take a different tack altogether!

Can I suggest that you might feel better about her aspiration if you were to look at a couple of things - firstly the actual content of a graphic design degree (look at more than uni to get a sense of the range of modules and emphases on offer) and then look at a careers guide ( we have Cambridge COA) which shows a breadth of opportunities available to graphic designers. As well as straight forward design there are a whole range of possibilities - advertising (so slso draws on consumer psychology and client management skills) graphic novel design (so uses story telling and storyboarding skills too), and anything in the games industry - one of the most successful sectors of our economy.

So what I'm trying to say is that things are a bit different from our day - these new skills are highly thought of in our new creative economy and also a range of complementary skills are also needed to reach the 'top' as a graphic designer - so your DD will have a chance to shine if she is above average in a number of other ways. So she should keep her GCSE choices open and aim for A levels that will develop her skills in those areas that might be useful later - eg English lit, psychology, maybe business studies.

And how about you help her organise some work experience in the area? Maybe in an advertising agency or similar? She'd get a good idea of the real world of designers and you would have more exposure to the industry too.

Sorry that turned into an essay there! I'm interested in this as I am actually an accountant but in the creative arts sector....

SoupDragon Tue 20-Nov-12 08:16:20

To answer the question in your OP, no you are not being unreasonable.

It's perfectly OK to feel like that provided you support your child in whatever they choose and are pleased that they are happy. The key is that you never show that you feel they chose poorly. My oldest two children are top set material. One has wanted to be a doctor since he was 4. Should he change his mind and want to be, say, a potter, yes I will be disappointed but will support him and never let that disappointment show.

There seem to be a few posters here with their own issues.

Shakirasma Tue 20-Nov-12 08:18:07


I think one of the most Important keys to succeeding in any career is self motivation. With the highest iq in the world, if you are not enthused by your subject you will never be the best you can be.

Your child is interested in a perfectly respectable career, one that has the potential to be very financially rewarding.

Your job now as a parent is to respect your child's choice, encourage and motivate them to be the very best at it that they can possibly be.

And when you manage that, your child will probably change their mind anyway! Lol

cory Tue 20-Nov-12 08:24:11

As a university teacher in a well regarded subject at an RG university, can I just point out that I see a fair few of these students every year: no doubt full of academic potential and with a full set of A*s, but only there because their parents thought it was right for them? And that the one thing that is very very clear to all of us is that they are the ones who fail to fulfill their academic potential, because their heart simply isn't in it; they don't engage with the course and they often end up with very disappointing results. In my books, warming the seat of a lecture hall for three years does not in itself equate to fulfilling academic potential.

My own dd is very academic but wants to do A-level and BTech in drama with a view to applying for stage school. She understands perfectly well that this may well mean ending up running an unglamourous drama club in some uninspiring suburb, but she thinks she has potential for engaging and working with this area that might not be fulfilled if she pursued a different path. The way she sees it, her academic potential is only one part of her full potential and the creative side is equally important.

I'd do a deal with your youngster. 'Yes, I understand that you want to do this and there are great opportunities out there, but I want you to make sure you have a Plan B to fall back on if it doesn't work out'.

But don't assume that potential can only be fulfilled in one way. My parents spent a lot of time trying to persuade my db to return to education because they thought he had potential. In the end he took a job as a trawlerman. And worked his way up the ranks and went back and got qualifications and now has his captain's certificate and runs a large transport ship. His potential is being fulfilled, just not in a way they had ever envisaged.

My careers teacher wanted me to go into medicine because of my results. I would have been a rotten medic or scientist and would have hated every moment of it. But do love my current job as an academic in a different (and not very well paid) field. My potential is being stretched as much as it can; even at 14 I had a fair idea of where my real potential lay.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Tue 20-Nov-12 08:38:54

There seem to be a few posters here with their own issues.

Yes, doesn't that make us worth listening to on this matter?

There is a lot of naivety around about the relationship between being academically bright and being automatically suited to the kinds of careers that have traditionally required a strong academic record. The OP is displaying it.

This is a great quote I try to re-read often:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." - Calvin Coolidge

goingupinsmoke Tue 20-Nov-12 08:45:00

YABU - and downright rude, some of the best creative minds are working in design right now, if it's of any interest to you maybe you should educate yourself in the industry she wants to work in, it happens to be very well paid, huge variety very exciting and most importantly it's a global transferable skill meaning he/she can up sticks away from interfering family members and work globally.

I have colleagues and friends who have worked and still work as CEO's for worldwide advertising agencies covering Asia middle east and africa. earning the sort of tear inducing amounts of money (if that is important)

The skills are also transferable to client side, so in later years he/she could become a brand manager for Rolls Royce as a sweeping example maybe then you would be proud?

Personally I think your DC sounds very bright choosing a career path at that age and knowing what she want to do is half the battle.

Graphic designers BTW are the people that make you buy a Volvo over a Vaxhaulll, they are the people who package up the christmas gifts you buy, they make you select one bottle of wine over another - they influence every since aspect of your waking moments in the world we live in. Which holidays you take with which branded company, you think your making choices? - Your being led down paths of selection by very skilled design and marketing done by clever designers.

DownTheRabidHole Tue 20-Nov-12 08:48:36

Of the two top brains in my academic year at grammar, the male jacked in science and is now a masseur and the woman is a p-t HR worker.

Others from my year are hairdressers, bus-drivers, bankers, doctors, recruitment consultants, SAHD(!), fashion designers, lecturers.

Ironically the hairdresser seems on of the happier with the most "stuff".

brainonastick Tue 20-Nov-12 08:52:02

You can't achieve in an area unless you are interested in it. Your DC is far more likely to do well if they follow their interests, rather than going just where the grades lead. If he is bright, then he'll be able to put his mind to most things, if he is motivated enough.

I got into Oxbridge to study economics, because my parents thought it was a good route to professional success. I lasted weeks as my heart wasn't in it. Luckily I managed to switch to a degree course that I was interested in, but otherwise I would have dropped out or done pretty badly. I still ended up in a dullsville career, and my life is the poorer for it.

SpicyPear Tue 20-Nov-12 08:55:09

Ummm, I think the fact that some of us have issues is exactly why we are posting. Because the kind of attitude shown by the OP can have very negative consequences for DCs if it's not checked. In my own case cronic stress from a job I was unsuited to and a breakdown.

wonkylegs Tue 20-Nov-12 08:57:07

My brilliant & academically bright sister is a graphic designer. I am truly in envy of her job & her talent.
As with a lot of careers mine included(architect) I think graphic Design suffers from the difference between perception & reality. There is a huge range of skills that go into the job some academic & some creative & some social/management. Careers like this can require incredibly flexible people with a range of skills. To me it is incredible that the people at the top of this field manage to balance all those skills out without becoming just good a bit of everything.
My DH has always jokingly referred to my degrees as 'blue peter' degrees (he's ver academic & a dr) until he realised what I actually did. Now he's more impressed.
I think the OP needs to stop worrying about their child and start researching what their ambition actually means.

CailinDana Tue 20-Nov-12 09:04:50

Don't fool yourself for one minute that your DC doesn't know how you feel. He/she absolutely does. I was academically gifted - I rarely got less than 98% in an exam - and the expectations on me were huge, mainly from my friends and from the school. My mother always took the "whatever you want to do" attitude but I knew, absolutely knew, that she hoped I would become a doctor or a lawyer so she could brag to her friends about me. Whenever I talked about what I actually wanted to do - psychology - she showed very little interest. So one night I tested her and said I was considering medicine instead. Her face lit up and she just couldn't help looking pleased. Thankfully I was cynical enough to recognise what was going on and I went and did psychology anyway, and loved it. However, feeling I wasn't living up to people's expectations (and people DO let you know that, some in subtle ways others not so subtle) was part of what led me to drift around for years feeling unsettled careerwise, and contributed to my depression.

In many ways being academically gifted is very hard in the sense that it's very difficult to go against the grain and do what you really want to do - people have so much invested in the idea that academic ability is a ticket to success that if they see you, as an academic person, not living up to that, they get quite annoyed and angry. Some of the things people said to me were shocking but the most annoying thing was the whole "It's a waste" bollocks. It implies that you as a person don't count, you're merely a slave to your ability and you have to live up to your "potential" regardless of whether you want to or not. It's almost as if being "able" gives you less choice rather than more - rather than being able to pretty much turn your hand to anything you are restricted to just a few "worthy" careers.

Anyway the long and the short of it is I'm now a SAHM working very part time and I'm very happy. I'm sure my mother still sees it as a "waste" but she can fuck off as far as I'm concerned. She was never interested in me as a person anyway.

wordfactory Tue 20-Nov-12 09:07:14

Of course you are not being unreasonable OP.

Worrying about our DC's future is part of our job description. Guiding our DC is also part of it.

I don't know much about graphic design, how challenging it is, how likely one is to make a career of it. I guess the first thing you need to do is some research?

teacher123 Tue 20-Nov-12 09:12:46

As a teacher, every year you see students trying desperately hard to please their parents and live up to their expectations, which can lead to a great deal of unhappiness. I understand that maybe you would prefer him to do something else, but I cannot urge you strongly enough to support his interests. He is much more likely to achieve well in a subject he enjoys. What I would encourage is researching what university courses are the highest regarded in that subject and also having a good spread of academic and non academic A levels so that he can keep his options open. If he's as bright as you say, he should be able to take 4 AS levels to A2, meaning that more university courses will be open to him. Before anyone takes offence at my dividing A levels into 'academic' and 'non-academic', I teach music, and am used to having to advise students to spread their risk depending on what they want to study at university. In an ideal world, all A levels and all university courses are equal, but this is definitely not the case.

tiggytape Tue 20-Nov-12 09:13:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsHoarder Tue 20-Nov-12 09:16:51

I can't read all the messages debating whether or not this is a good idea. I just want to tell you about my parents. They are fairly pushy, which with me was occasionally irritating but what I wanted to do fell fairly in line with where I was being pushed so they were happy. With my middle brother it probably saved him from years of sitting around on the dole because he didn't want to do anything. But with my baby brother he knew what he wanted to do, it was a skilled trade. He wanted to go to college and get an NQV (?) and work in that trade.

Instead they pushed him into going to do A-levels. He got halfway through the first term, had a nervous breakdown, a suicide attempt and left home without speaking to my parents. He then spent 2 years recovering before even beginning to do anything and is still now living with them doing mostly unskilled manual labour.

I suspect that in the long run he will be successful, but it did a lot of damage. The most heartbreaking thing is that my mum doesn't seem to understand that he was under pressure from her. Needless to say I aim to be very careful not to do the same to DS.

Your DD is her own person, growing into an adult. Yes nudge her away from very damaging decisions but don't try to control her future if she wants to do something that isn't the future you had in mind for her. Its her life.

Startail Tue 20-Nov-12 09:19:38

DF is a doctor, mainly to please her dad and teachers, I suspect.
What else do you suggest to a girl who can pass science exams,but has good social skills.

She hates the technical side of medicine. It's taken years,much soul searching and a while doing something totally different for her to find a corner medicine that fits.

She's artistic, musical and brilliant with people of all ages, I've always wondered what she would have done if she'd gone to a big city comprehensive with lots of options. Not a small rural private school

Mrsjay Tue 20-Nov-12 09:22:25

It will possibly all change over the next few years, but I'm agonizing over this potential waste. And hating myself for being bothered by the lack of ambition.

DD is 19 and she didnt chose her career choice until she was 17 she chopped and changed her mind everyday , they are 14 years old they dont know what they want for breakfast some days leave them alone they will chose what they want in a few years time why are you dissapointed in a 14 yr old let them be let this go and they will choose their own way ,

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