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Academic parents with very 'average' children - how do you cope?

(115 Posts)
whippet Mon 21-Sep-09 22:10:38

Without beating about the bush, DH and I are both bright, intelligent, quick-thinking etc etc. Good degrees. Like reading & learning.

DS1 is a chip off the old block(s) - seems to absorb information, and always has his nose in a book. Ahead of peers. Has never struggled with anything (except perhaps team sports!)

DS2 is completely different. Late to read. Slow to understand/'get' things. Doesn't concentrate. Learns something one day and forgets the next.

I love them both unreservedly, but fear that I am a crap parent to DS2, as I simply don't have the patience to do stuff at his pace.

I sometimes have to walk away when he's doing his homework to stop myself showing my frustration and tendency to 'jump in' sad.

Inside my head I'm thinking "how can you have FORGOTTEN how to spell that when it's right in front of you in the question" or "but we just talked about that".

Aaargh - how do you manage to have any empathy when your child is so different to yourself?

Goblinchild Mon 21-Sep-09 22:15:44

Recognise your limitations and don't put your frustrations into your relationship with your child. Love what you've got, walk away and do something else whilst making encouraging noises if you can't help without getting stressed.
Celebrate what they are good at, his strengths may not be in a sphere you recognise at the moment, and accept that who they are is not a reflection on you.
You may never develop empathy, but you can have tolerance and respect for someone very different to you.

AnyFucker Mon 21-Sep-09 22:25:16

Oh, I could write an essay on this

I have had to give myself a very severe talking-to about it

Goblinchild put it well

What makes it very frustrating for me too is that my DB's (who pissed away his time at school and came out with zilch) child is a very high achiever like I was

Not bloody fair !!

You just have to love them as they are and not try to impose your ethic onto them as it will ruin your relationship

I think I have made peace with it by now (just about). My eldest is 14. It has taken me a loooong time smile

VulpusinaWilfsuit Mon 21-Sep-09 22:26:36

I dunno, mine are all a bit little to know what they really excel at yet. And things change: don't be too quick to pigeonhole them?

If you want him to learn more, you could consider getting someone else to help with the homework? Someone who won't be so stressed by it? Partner? Grandparent? Tutor?

And perhaps he hasn't found his talents yet? Maybe he will be a brilliant sportsman? Artist? Writer? Cook? Mechanic? Friend?

How old is he?

koninklijke Tue 22-Sep-09 07:18:45

You've listed what DS1 is 'good' at and then made a joke that perhaps he's not so good at team sports like thats not important, and its great that he's a chip off the old block(s).

Yet you've listed all what you perceive to be weaknesses in DS2, but nothing good. Try listing what he does well. You may find that he's going to turn out to be one of those creative, robust, team players with tonnes of friends that you wished you were when you were a child wink. I don't doubt you love him, but make sure you love him for what he is, not what he isn't. Obvious I know, but difficult to express I'm sure. smile.

cory Tue 22-Sep-09 07:19:44

Same position here: dd (the eldest) is highly academic, at 12 I can have the kind of discussion with her that I would normally have with one of my brighter undergraduates. Ds hovers around the bottom sets and often finds it difficult to follow family conversations.

I try to remind myself that academic thinking is only a small part of what makes up a person. In other ways,when it comes to reactions to everyday situations, ds is far more like me than dd: her reactions are sometimes so different that she might as well be an alien species, interesting but very very strange grin

Also, ds is unlike me in some areas where being unlike me is clearly a Good Thing. His social skills are far better than mine were at that age, and he has a detached, humourous attitude about himself that took me many years to reach, I certainly didn't have it at 9 (I was a bit pompous blush).

Homework is easier now when he mainly does his own.

CybilLiberty Tue 22-Sep-09 07:24:08

You stop being an academic and you start being kind. Poor kid

brimfull Tue 22-Sep-09 07:58:36

maybe this is meant to teach you a lesson about patience and vanity

GooseyLoosey Tue 22-Sep-09 08:05:11

We have this to a degree. Ds is always effortlessly top in things where as dd struggles more to stay around the middle. I find working with her deeply frustrating and sometimes I can snap when she just does not see what I am trying to tell her and I have explained it in every way I can. I am accutely aware that this is my failing not hers and I struggle to keep my frustration in check - I feel very guilty when it slips out.

The irony is that if I had to judge which of my children was more at ease with the world and likely to find their passage through life smooth, I would pick dd. She "gets" social interaction in a way that none of the rest of the family does and has an emotional intelligence which is far more advanced than her brother (and her father).

cory Tue 22-Sep-09 08:06:11

I think it has with me, ggirl. Because it's made me realise what a small part of my life my own talents are- looking all the things that my ds has got that I haven't got or didn't have at his age. He has also shown a talent for drawing, which is the sort of thing that I would never really have thought of as desirable, because we've never done that iyswim. But now when he does it, I can see how wonderful it must be to be able to express your feelings on a piece of paper, and I can see that he must find me pretty untalented. Same with the social thing, he must find me very slow: I can't just walk into a place and have 3 new friends within the space of 10 minutes.

Prunerz Tue 22-Sep-09 08:59:57

From observing a family I know well with several grown-up children, some academic and some not: you find what they are good at and celebrate those talents.

One is a carpenter, one is a political campaigner (better at grass-roots stuff than political theorising), one became a taxi-driver (quite hard for his parents who were academics at a big university).

If you mean how do you help YOU, then you could do a bit of volunteering, a bit of training, teach literacy skills in a prison? Very humbling at times.

cory Tue 22-Sep-09 09:12:14

Our family is like that, Prunerz: two academics, one dropped out of uni to run his own computer business and one started work on a trawler. We've all been successful in our different ways.

colditz Tue 22-Sep-09 09:20:17

Foster social interactions.

I have an "academic" con, who could count to 100 at 3.5 and recognise all the alphabet and the sounds they made. He struggles socially, and actually school isn't a great deal of fun for him.

ANd I have a not particularly academic 3.5 year old, as far as I can see. Resolutely cannot count beyond 4. "A" for apple makes the sound "Crrrrunch!" according to ds2 (Ds1 at this age could not only tell me the sound A made, he could pick it out in sentences and find rhymes for it).


Yesterday I fell over and really hurt myself. Ds1 (6) continued to try to show me the prices of things in the Argos catalogue. Ds2 tried to pick me up by the head, and patted my back and said "oh poor mummy, oo hurt ooself!"

And I think he gets people on a level that ds1 does not, never has, and maybe never will.

I think that he may or may not be academic but his forte will always be people, whereas ds1 may or may not be academic, but his forte will always be facts - things he can touch. Ds2 breezes through social interactions and knows how to deal with everyone he meets - Ds1 it trusting and overly sharing and kind with everyone, even those who don't deserve it.

Lancelottie Tue 22-Sep-09 09:23:44

Can I join in with some general guilty cringing? I made DD cry this weekend in a very frustrating maths homework session (by bursting out, 'For Christ's sake, DD, how can 7 minus 4 be zero?'). She's 8, socially adept, musical, good reader -- but has the maths skills of a brightish pet rabbit.

In my case I think it's partly the dying hope that she wouldn't conform to the giggly, maths-duffer stereotype that so many of her friends seem to favour. Not that I mind the giggles, as such, I was just hoping for a bright, giggly mathematician...

MadHairDay Tue 22-Sep-09 09:28:06

We have just had to keep asking ourselves if being academic really matters. And it doesn't. I love both my children completely and utterly, but yes have found it difficult that while ds is a high flyer, ahead of peers etc, read at 3, all that sort of thing, dd is more of an average child academically. But she has a beautiful nature, is caring, imaginative and great fun. All these things matter far more. So she may not have such an amazing career as ds (although this certainly not set in stone) who cares? Life is about far, far more. Dh and I are both pretty academic and I do catch myself thinking, well at your age I would read for hours for pleasure, whereas she will sit and read for 10 mins then lose concentration. What we have to be really careful with is never to compare them. DD read Ds's school report and was v upset that it was so glowing where hers had more comments relating to concentration, messy handwriting etc. She's also dyspraxic so finds it hard that DS seems to pick up everything, including physical activity, much easier than her. It's just a case of fostering her gifts and never making grades the be all and end all.

sheeplikessleep Tue 22-Sep-09 09:35:02

There's an interesting speech on TED - type in 'Ken Robinson creativity TED' into google. It is quite powerful about the fact that school encourages just one type of 'intelligence'.

I can see where you're coming from. I excelled at school and enjoyed the academic side. DH is far more creative and knows so many things now, whereas my general knowledge is rubbish.

Try to nourish his strengths and encourage his own passions. My DS isn't even 2 yet, so I can't give much more insight or experience, but I'm sure in years and years, this just won't seem important. How many 'successful' people do you know who weren't good at school? Initiative, thinking for self, encouraging passions and hobbies and drive are also important aren't they?

Not sure if this helps - but have a look at that speech - it might help you re-evaluate things differently.

pagwatch Tue 22-Sep-09 09:35:11

I think it also serves us well to examine exactly why it is that we value certain things.
Being bright is not a passport to happiness, wealth, great sex or a deeply loving group of family and friends.
Do you value it because you feel it defines you, because it was the aspect of your personality that was most valued in your childhood.
I have a very very bright child, a severely disabled child and an average child. Thay are all equally happy, each have their tribulations and joys and that is because they are valued for themselves.
The very bright boy probably is most happy when doing Art - an ability which was totally unexpected and surprising. We are just as happy for him that he has this talent than we are about all his A*s at GCSE.

It took us months to teach DS to speak, years to write and he is the most delightful boy. DD is sporty and kind and a happy little ball of energy.

You should contemplate that maybe you are reacting from a misplaced sense of ego.
You should take no credit for your bright child - his 'smarts' are genetic. You should feel no embaressment about your non bright DC because it is genetics.

Your job as a parent, the primary standard by which YOU can be judged is their self worth, their ability to be themselves and know that they are loved, their kindness and manners .

It is Sooooo common on here to read the boasting that people indulge in because God or the universe or the roulette wheel of genetics gave their child a break. It is nonsese yet we still do it.
Yet this situation calls for you to do the real job of parenting which is doing it when it challenges us.
I am not dismissing your concerns and I admire your honesty.I remember the shock of realising DS2 was not going to follow his brother to academic glory.Far from it.

But actually this is it. This is parenting. The first child was the peice of piss - the thing that required little of you. Now you have to actually work for it and you will find out what you are made of.

It is actually that your bright, smart sassyness doesn't actually help you much here does it? Perhaps that should help you reevaluate if it is the only criteria that counts.

You will be fine but you need to adjust your thinking. Your bright. You can do it smile

whippet Tue 22-Sep-09 09:36:02

Thank you. This is helpful, and yes, I KNOW it's MY problem not his.

He is only 7, which makes me even more guilty, 'cos as you say, things can change. But I think around the age of 7 children begin to show some of their talents, and his are still staying shyly hidden.
Goblinchild - "his strengths may not be in a sphere you recognise at the moment" - I'm sure this is true.

Interesting about what some people say about the academic/ not-so-sociable and less academic/more personable dimensions - I';m sure that's true for my DSs.

Good idea to make a list of strengths though smile

Lancelottie - I share your pain sad. Yesterday DS2 was copying out some spellings he'd written wrongly in his work... His teacher had corrected 'tabule' and written 'table x3' underneath for him to write out. Soooo... he dutifully wrote out,



Fennel Tue 22-Sep-09 09:36:30

Just wrote a long post but it got lost as DP interrupted me to tell me how our 5yo is, apparently, too poor at reading to qualify for the remedial reading course shock.

We have this experience, I had just assumed that all our children would be highly academic, because everyone in my immediate family was, no exceptions, and DP is also very academically able. So it was a surprise that my children aren't.

One has been obviously academically good from a young age, the other two are either very average, or (possibly) late developers. I do have to be patient, but in our family it's made easier by the fact that the academic one is also difficult, stroppy, demanding and often a total PITA (she's the most like me grin) whereas the two who are less academic are utterly charming lovely people, a pleasure to have around, you couldn't possibly want to swap them for three clever but demanding ones.

I think for me it was just a matter of changing my expectations, remembering that of course our children are not just mini versions of us, and why should they be? and also, yes, it's a lesson in patience and vanity, we shouldn't need our children to be good at things to fit our expectations.

pagwatch Tue 22-Sep-09 09:37:28

bloody nora. Sorry aboutthe terrible spelling etc.... In a rush this morning.

ingles2 Tue 22-Sep-09 09:38:57

I love both my boys unreservedly.. but I'm the opposite of the OP.
I have unlimited patience and time and empathy for ds2 who has SN... find it easy to go over and over and over the same thing until I think he has it... but I've got absolutely no patience at all with my eldest son who is academic. When he does something daft, or struggles with his English (he's a mathematician) I find myself saying "think DS1", or "you have a large brain please use it" which is awful...
I guess I kind of begrudge helping him as it's taking precious time and help away from his brother who really does need it. I must stop doing this to ds1 actually....

ohbabygivemeonemorechance Tue 22-Sep-09 09:45:59

Maybe the op is struggling with feeling that connection and communication with ds2 that she thought would be the same as with ds1 and is trying to sort it through in her mind?

I agree with lower your expectations a lot[ds1 may be a hard act to follow] and try to connect with him at his level, in his way,not intellectually/academically.

sarah293 Tue 22-Sep-09 09:47:14

Message withdrawn

RustyBear Tue 22-Sep-09 09:57:04

We have a new G&T coordinator at the junior school I work at, who has totally changed the G&T programme - it's called Pathfinders and it now includes children with all sorts of skills - not just academic, artistic or musical (though there are several of those) but things like leadership, social or organisational skills.
She talks to them individually to find a project they would enjoy doing to use their special skills.

One of the most impressive projects I saw was from a boy who was not 'traditionally academic' and nowhere near the top of his year in Literacy, but he used his research & organization skills to create an amazing chart showing all the links and relationships between the various characters in the Harry Potter books - it was fascinating.

Acinonyx Tue 22-Sep-09 10:19:45

I am very academic - it has been always the focus of my life one way or another. Dh is similar.

I do understand your dilemma but the big difference for me is that I lived this in reverse. My mother totally scorned school and academia generally and it caused endless problems for both of us and really damaged our relationship.

I am therefore at pains not to expect dd to follow my footsteps and get quite shirty with people who joke about or seem to assume that she will.

As for getting impatient. I have been a classroom TEFL teacher and was very patient. But I can easily see how I might be less patient with my own dd - the trick is to imagine I am teaching A CHILD - not MY dd (in the same way that when my mother in old age drove me really demented I would try to imagine she was juat an old lady who needed help and not my mother - works for other crazy relatives too).

But that terrible, chonic burden of not being like my mother and her ever-increasing disappointment will be with me forever and hopefully always temper my dealings with dd.

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