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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.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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.

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.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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.

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

Very true, breatheslowly.

breatheslowly Fri 23-Aug-13 00:32:25

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.

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.

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 23:39:16

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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