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If your kid wins everything....

(25 Posts)
TinklyLittleLaugh Thu 24-May-18 10:32:35

How do you deal with it?

I'm posting in this section to avoid the inevitable accusations of boasting and hoping for some input from parents with similar experiences.

DS is in Y7. Very bright, very sporty. Went to primary with a similarly (if not slightly more) talented kid and they had a friendly rivalry and balanced each other out. But they have gone to different high school and the one DS goes to is not massive.

DS seems to win everything: maths awards, chess competitions, sports races, everything that's genuinely measurable. He is also really good at the everything else like Art and music and English and football and apparently fantastic at coding. Parents evening was basically his teachers telling us how amazing he was.

Now we're not getting carried away by this, we have three older ones who were similarly bright, went to good Unis but probably slightly under achieved due to poor work ethic, so we know there's a long way to go. DS is very motivated and driven though, in a way the older kids weren't.

At the moment we are dealing with him winning everything in quite a jokey way (and from what he's said the teachers are doing the same). He's a likeable kid, totally modest, never brags, has loads of mates, says he never gets any stick at school and would laugh it off if he did. Out of school he's just your average kid, gaming and messing around on his bike.

But I remember being in school and getting stick for being bright and learning to mask it. I just worry that sooner or later there'll be some big backlash, some other bright kids might get jealous. I'd be perfectly happy for him not to get all the prizes (even if he deserved them) just to share it out a bit. Perhaps we should have tried to send him somewhere more academic?

DuchyDuke Thu 24-May-18 10:35:31

It’s possible you need to consider a different school. I’m currently moving my neice out of a good private school into one that is more academically rigourous for the same reason. Prizes don’t mean anything if the structure around them isn’t rigourous enough.

Atalune Thu 24-May-18 10:36:43

You’re overthinking it.

The only concern might be, is it the right school for him? Is he being stretched and challenged or does it all come very easily? Could be hard for him should he wish to pursue a rigorous degree at a top uni. He may not have the skills to keep pace with other very clever and very hardworking peers.

If he’s happy and well settled and challenged then celebrate it. Your son sounds lovely x

TinklyLittleLaugh Thu 24-May-18 10:58:42

He is very settled and very very happy (our family nickname for him is something like Happy Harry), so we are reluctant to rock the boat.

No I doubt he is totally stretched in every single lesson. Does that matter though if he manages a good batch of GCSEs? He will go to our local excellent selective sixth form college (no sixth form at his school) and have every opportunity to succeed at A level. Presumably A levels will be stretching and will get him into shape for Uni? Or does he need more to be the best he could be?

TinklyLittleLaugh Thu 24-May-18 11:06:23

I'm saying this by the way, because he wants to work for NASA or something; he went online and looked at their jobs page to see what sort of qualifications he would need to work for them grin

I just want him to have all the chances. I don't even think he's my brightest kid, but he has a drive the others didn't. (Others are older and perfectly happy and doing fine).

DuchyDuke Thu 24-May-18 11:07:01

Getting A stars at GCSEs without hard work doesn’t always prepare kids for the workload of A Levels or degree courses which are more demanding. Depends on the subject and the kid though - I know people who have been last minute charlies throughout academia and still get A stars / As at A Level, and 1st class degrees - it’s only when they start work that they suffer. Don’t want that for my neice.

TinklyLittleLaugh Thu 24-May-18 11:20:29

So what would happen at an academic private school Duchy? Work beyond the GCSE and A level syllabus?

Nuffaluff Thu 24-May-18 11:24:10

I think he’ll be fine. As he’s sporty, he’s automatically got a big tick for popularity. He won’t be teased for being bright.

Neolara Thu 24-May-18 11:29:31

I'd say the biggest risks are that he finds everything easy and doesn't learn how to cope when he finds things hard and that his sense of self-worth becomes unhelpfully linked to how well he achieves. For this reason, I'd be pushing him to try all sorts of things just a little bit outside his comfort zone.. My kids also tend to find most stuff easy and do well. Instead of talking to them about what they've done well, I tend to ask them what mistakes they've made and what they learn from this. If they tell me they haven't made any mistakes, I tell them that's terrible, they must just be going over stuff they already know! I tell them that if they are making mistakes they are probably being really challenged and it's the time they'll learn the most. I also talk a lot about people doing well because they try hard, listen well, try different approaches and don't give up. Since using this approach, the eldest in particular has become very good at trying all sorts of things. She is usually top of the class in everything, but she happily goes to an athletics type club where she has come last in just about every race she's ever entered. She just enjoys the activity and this isn't spoiled by her being a bit rubbish at it. Carol Dweck's book on mindsets is worth a read.

DuchyDuke Thu 24-May-18 11:32:35

I have chosen a school where the kids go for the International Baccalaureate instead of A Levels post-GCSE, as neice will study more subjects (including language) and the rigour is similar to a first year degree course. The school also encourages encourages study of an additional personal research project. A lot of the kids design mobile phone apps or publish research / articles on current topics. A few kids last year teamed up and applied for funding from MIT to get their idea up and running & will go there to study after completing their IBs.

Quagmireofsloth Thu 24-May-18 11:35:31

I agree about the risks that he gets used to finding things easy - and what neolara said. It's a nice problem to have, but nobody gets through life without finding someone better than them on one or many dimensions - it may be that this doesn't happen until they get into the working world, or a top university and meet people as smart or smarter, but it does happen to everyone and resilience is needed for that.

I do think that's the (small) danger of growing up as a bright kid in a small pond.

Do your local universities offer any outreach programmes for Maths etc? Is he winning chess competitions and maths awards within the regions? I'd look for ways to hot the competition up a gear to test him a bit to push the resilience learning.

TinklyLittleLaugh Thu 24-May-18 11:43:39

That's very interesting Neolara.

He does go to an athletics club and doesn't always win at meetings. He focuses on his PB, which I suppose is positive. We sent him because he always wins at school.

He knows he's pretty average in the school football team and seems okay with that. He wasn't great at Art but did a lot at home and suddenly seems to have become pretty good (we are an Arty family though). I would like him to learn an instrument properly (he's a really good singer can play the guitar a bit, dabbles with the piano) but he's not really interested. Hmm perhaps it's worth pushing as a challenge.

I will be honest, when he tried fencing club or archery or similar at primary, he always picked things up really quickly, came home with fencer/archer of the week certificates etc. God I'm making him sound insufferable.

Margoletta Thu 24-May-18 11:48:59

Forgive the NC, but it's v personal, and may seem boasty, but it's not in that spirit at all, honestly.

If he's learnt to work hard, that's all that matters, he will go far. Being comfortable with his success, and genuinely modest is absolutely the best attitude for him, because other children will see through false modesty - their parents may snipe that he wins everything, but they know he's just good at stuff, and is a nice chap with it.

Both DH and I were the ones that won everything at school, all the way through, top in every subject, except sport/games, though we were both on town teams for swimming. I also played 3 instruments, got my Queen's Guide, D of E, and was a cadet sergeant.

We assumed that we were top in every subject purely because we went to pretty poor schools. (I mean bottom 5% in England, not just a bit ropey)
But then we both went to very large sixth form colleges, and were top there too.
Then we went to university, and the work became harder.

DH excelled, and was still top of his year. He had learnt to work very hard as a child, because he arrived in Britain as a small boy with no English whatsoever, was sent to school, and it was sink or swim. He also had dyslexia, which made learning to read and write English doubly hard.

I did nothing. I had never learned to work, because I'd never needed to try at anything before I got to university. I could still get by fairly well, but I underachieved by quite a margin for my ability.
Thankfully my first post-grad job sorted out the working issue, and I've done well in my career (but not without a few "what if"s!)

Our children are following suit.
We put them into a highly academic primary, with super-selective to follow, because we didn't want them to be top in everything (it's a curse not a blessing if no-one else can discuss what you're interested in, if no-one in class can debate and drive learning forward).

One child is driven, works at everything, tries everything at least once, is successful at everything they take up, wins everything- not just in school, but now on a national level too.
The other child (by far the brighter) never works, only does what is fun or of personal interest (will read/research about esoteric things that interest them because that's fun, but never does homework without a huge battle), doesn't care that they're top of the class because it's immaterial to them and will continue to put in the bare minimum because they're still top of the class.

What has been the difference (other than the fact that their personalities are the complete opposite of one another, one introvert, one extrovert) is their peers.

The successful child was in a cohort of first-borns and singletons with extremely pushy parents. For a child with a competitive streak that was a huge impetus. The whole year group was formed of over-achievers.
The one that sits on his laurels is in a weak cohort (weak by the school's usual standard not just weaker than his sibling's year), with many children that are not pushed at all at home, and do not do any extra-curricular activities at all, let alone 'pushy' ones. I know many of the teachers despair of their year (possibly because they're comparing to my eldest's year)

My eldest is far happier outwardly. My youngest is unhappy, but I know feels unfulfilled.

I would say DH is far happier than I am.

TinklyLittleLaugh Thu 24-May-18 11:49:22

Quag apparently he's done really well on the maths Olympiad thing they do. He has only ever played chess for fun (not even in the club at school). I'm not sure he's that bothered about it.

Margoletta Thu 24-May-18 11:54:01

Sorry- that should say My youngest is NOT unhappy, but I know feels unfulfilled.

I would also say that we have taken great pains to always praise the effort they put in, rather than the outcome.

TinklyLittleLaugh Thu 24-May-18 11:54:46

Margoletta. I think you are absolutely right about peers being important. DS's primary was full of very pushy parents and high achieving kids. This high school seems more average but it's hard to tell.

Quagmireofsloth Thu 24-May-18 11:59:43

It's good he's already testing himself on a bigger stage with athletics, ideally he needs to do it with a few other (perhaps academic) things that really matter to him so he gets that you win some, you lose some experience there too.

We know quite a few very successful academics, all very driven, very hard working and able to shrug off things that don't go your way for whatever reason.

The people that haven't been conventional successes are the people who couldn't compromise or take the knocks, the grants you didn't get, the jobs you didn't get, people that went into business and couldn't get through a bad boss or being told to do something they didn't think made sense etc.

I'd say my experience was similar to margoletta - that i didn't really learn this lesson. Some of this is personality though tinkly, it doesn't sound like your DS is a natural coaster/satisficer.

Margoletta Thu 24-May-18 12:01:22

I would also say that my undriven child is extremely selfish, and only does what is of intrinsic value to themself. He does not value anyone else's opinion (well, he does care what me and his father think, marginally) and just doesn't care about working hard 'for his teachers'. (We have had to do a lot of work on his manners and attitude, and squash a lot of rudeness and dismissiveness!!)
The driven child wants to please their sports coach, music tutor, maths teacher etc,. so they try hard for them, for us, and for themselves, IYSWIM.

Quagmireofsloth Thu 24-May-18 12:03:22

ha, that could be my DP/DC1 margoletta! In general, if you focus on things that have both intrinsic and extrinsic value you're onto a winner smile The trick is trying to direct them - nearly impossible.

Thehogfather Fri 25-May-18 19:24:43

I think the problem in the future will be struggling when he comes across something he doesn't find relatively easy, or when he becomes part of a group where he is mediocre or even bottom by comparison.

I know you have other activities where he's experiencing this, but I'd also want to ensure that academically he becomes accustomed to it. Rather than when he's older.

I knew my school was a low achieving cohort, lacking subject specialists, and generally awful so it was only in adulthood when I realised I wasn't just a high achiever by comparison. But I think if I'd been at an ok school I would have got inflated opinions about my ability. And having never had to vaguely try, it was a bit of a shock suddenly encountering something academic at uni level that required some.

For my dd my concern has never been grades, just that she learns how to work and concentrate, rather than being effortlessly great and getting accustomed to being best. (And that unlike me she doesn't avoid university at 18 because she finds education mind numbingly dull, but luckily that doesn't seem to be the case at your ds school)

Dd is at an independent, and they do stretch them outside the curriculum, both in lessons and in extra curricula clubs. But if you and he are generally happy with his school it seems a bit drastic to move, I'd just look elsewhere for some academic peers and greater challenge.

lljkk Mon 28-May-18 05:24:07

DD was (is) bright, multi-talented, driven.
"She's a natural!" they proclaimed, about everything she tried, sport, art, language, academics, music.... embarrassing. Recently, in yr11, if the math teacher has to explain how to do an especially tricky problem, teacher actually says to class "Let's see how Amy* did it."

Luckily, ~yr8, one of her BFFs at secondary, broke the school's record for some run event. DD started to meet her match. She struggled with computing (at first). Or Other kids were more popular. She lost interest in music & Art GCSE was obviously insanely too much work. Silver DoE may yet defeat her. DD has chosen to focus on academics, carved out her niche as the brainbox and doesn't mind some failures along the way,; made her own challenges.

My other 3 aren't truly high achievers. You've done well there.

*Not real name

Xenia Thu 02-Aug-18 14:13:27

The peers do matter. It's why we picked academically selective schools from age 5 actually. I was pretty good at school and still so at univesrity and I suppose in life/work/earnings. It is combination of inclination, hard work and ability. It just happened to come together for me. there are plenty of people good at lots of things who are pretty lazy or just want to knit or watch the flowers and nothing wrong with that but it doesn't get them a decent income.

NellyBarney Tue 04-Sep-18 01:46:49

Just a word of warning: even highly able kids need as much genuine praise as dc who are less naturally gifted. My dh was a similar all rounder to your ds - excelled(s) in all areas, including sport and music. So his parents, and teachers, decided to take him down a notch as not to upset less successful siblings/classmates and to teach him that 'life is not a walk in the park'. The result is a lifetime struggle with low self-worth. Rather than taking for granted or ignoring achievements it might be wiser to find a school/club/music school where he is not always the best, gets stretched but gets genuine, non-selfconscious praise for his achievements, especially if he has been working hard.

LetItGoToRuin Tue 04-Sep-18 10:50:24

Interesting, Nelly. I was an academic child, though not gifted, except musically. I don’t really remember receiving praise from my parents: they had high expectations of me, and (fortunately for me) I was keen and able to meet those expectations. However, my failures were remembered more than my successes, eg 99/100 in a spelling test being met with, “How did you get that one wrong?”, and famous among my friends was the occasion when, while walking home with them after collecting GCSE results, my mum drove past and shouted out of the window, “What was the B?”

Fortunately, I do not seem to have suffered from this approach: I did believe that my parents were proud of my achievements, even though they didn’t show it. (Maybe I have suffered, but not in ways I have yet identified!)

I am aware of a tendency to parent my own daughter in a similar way, and I am trying to adapt my approach. When discussing her report we do praise achievement but focus more on effort. In school she has yet to find anything particularly challenging (just going into Y3) but outside school she achieves well at dancing and piano through hard work rather than natural ability. As she is a people pleaser, her attitude is praised wherever she goes, and this stands out more than her achievements, which feels to me to be a good thing at this age.

NellyBarney Tue 04-Sep-18 11:29:14

That sounds lovely, LetitGo. She seems to have already developed a great work ethic and it must be positive for her to experience that she can succeed through hard work, and this positive experience is reinforced through genuine praise. I can relate to your childhood. People often start to see highly able children as adults and start to expect a lot of them without acknowledging their achievements in the same way as they would if a child was less able. I see this sometimes when I sit in an instrumental lesson with my six year dd. No or very little praise for playing rather difficult pieces at first attempt very well, but immediately comments like: you can't ignore the change of dynamics in the 20th bar! I also often fall into that trap and be too quick to demand perfection as I think she is capable of it, but then so are all the dc who are suffering eating disorders and mental health issues in highly selective schools. Giftednesd is definitely a risk factor, I would say.

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