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My clever ,shy DS is in tears because he came top in Maths.

(27 Posts)
Mumwhensdinnerready Tue 30-Jun-09 16:16:12

DS1 is 13 very shy and lacking in self confidence. He's 6' tall and physically mature but that doesn't seem to help.
He is very good at Maths and came home from school today in tears because all his friends called him "bof" and "genius" for getting top marks. He says he hates it because it makes him seem different and he doesn't want to stand out.
I've tried to reassure him that it's just teasing and it doesn't mean they don't like him.
It makes me so angry because this is one of the reasons boys underachieve at school because it's uncool to be clever.
It's not a bad school by the way, one of the best in the area.

Any tips on boosting his self esteem or techniques for dealing with the jibes?

thumbwitch Tue 30-Jun-09 16:26:13

Ooh a tricky one.
poor boy - I had a bit of this at junior school but m senior school was a high-achieveing academic place so I was less "outstanding".
How to deal with it... bof and genius aren't the worst names in the world - were his friends really jibing at him badly? Being good at something is something to be proud of, not ashamed of - maths is an important subject for so many careers.

Perhaps you can talk to him about his future life being great at maths, and how well he is likely to do because of it; and he can perhaps become more confident because of it cos he might be able to make more money than the rest of them who don't try.
The thing is for him to celebrate his differences, not try to become one of the "sheep" - being different is great, even at 13!

Gosh I don't think I'm doing very well here - it's so hard when you think your peer group are thinking less about you because of your achievements; but the chances are, they DON'T think less of him, they are more likely to be jealous but don't want to let that show, so take the piss to cover up their inadequacies. Is he old enough to be able to understand that and take comfort from it?

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Tue 30-Jun-09 16:27:41

Bumping for you - I used to get this at school and just clammed up - as well as ultimately underachieving. I hope someone comes along with good advice.

kathyis6incheshigh Tue 30-Jun-09 16:41:17

I read a great column once by the American writer Cynthia Heimel about how she went to her high school reunion and all the people who had been geeky at school had ended up really attractive because they were successful and confident and had kept fit, while the football heroes and beauty queens had married young and ended up in dead end jobs.
I think 'the best is yet to come' is the message you need to get across really.
He also needs to know that even if he doesn't feel he fits in now, one day he will go to university (probably a very good university) and find hundreds and hundreds of people who were also the shy clever one at school.
I know there are lots of good lines people have recommended on here to boys in a similar position ('Geek? Yeah, like Bill Gates' worked for one MNer's ds).

TheProfiteroleThief Tue 30-Jun-09 16:46:35

Can he play it down

'yeah - the old lady bribed me to get good marks. pain in the ass but earned me £100'

up to you if you follow throughgrin

at 13, he is not going to want to change the world (or school) just survive it without a kicking ime

MarshaBrady Tue 30-Jun-09 16:47:56

At some point will they stream the classes?

I really hope he can find a way to ignore the teasing or that it stops of course, and he doesn't change his behaviour to fit theirs.

MarshaBrady Tue 30-Jun-09 16:53:33

Also, does he sit next to the children teasing him?, could he be moved in the classroom?

Mumwhensdinnerready Tue 30-Jun-09 17:25:27

Thanks for all these useful ideas.
He's in set one as they are already streamed, so this is coming from his his peer group in general , not just the one sat next to him.
He has high hopes for winning some races at sports day so I asked him whether he would be teased for that. Apparently being good at sport is okangry but being good at lessons is not.
I so want him to find the courage to continue to work hard and give a witty answer to the teasing. I've always tried to instil the idea that it's ok to be different, not to do anything just because everyone else does.It's hard when you're 13 and peer group approval is of such importance.
Profiterolethief I suspect you are right about just surviving.

ShrinkingViolet Tue 30-Jun-09 17:40:54

I'm assuming that he doesn't also have the geek accessories (awful haircut, unflattering glasses, wide collection of tanktops and bowties, etc). If he does, they would be Good Things to change wink.
DD1 gets this a bit, but she deals with it by grinning at them and saying "I know, great, isn't it". Tends to confuse, as it's not a "normal" response to "I'm jealous and trying to make you feel small".

I only have DDs, but I remember boys being generally pretty horrid to each other as part of some strange friendship ritual - can he observe the group for a couple of days, and see if everyone gets singled out about something? If so, it's possible it's a "what teenage boys do" thing, and actually means he's part of the group.

However, I may be totally offbase, so feel free to ignore me smile

pointydog Tue 30-Jun-09 17:43:49

Well, best of all would be that he just accepts that he is a bit of a swot, ignores the jibes and doesn't feel at all ashamed of it.

That can be very hard for some teens to do. It's the same for girls and boys.

You could talk to the school about this sensitivity and ask them not to reveal marks to the class. Kids normally find out, though, if they're keen enough. It's often the other brainy ones who call 'swot' loudest because there is an element of jealousy there.

Does he know that in the long term it is to his advantage to be brainy?

(If it's really really bad he could get a few answers wrong on purpose but I'd leave that as a last resort wink)

kathyis6incheshigh Tue 30-Jun-09 18:00:09

Does he have friends out of school as well as in school? Maybe if he knew he was liked for himself in an environment where no-one knew he was good at Maths (eg a sports club) or one where everyone else was good at it too, this would give him the confidence to laugh it off more.

Mumwhensdinnerready Tue 30-Jun-09 18:04:43

He doesn't look geeky IMO although as I'm 103 I may be out of touch. He wears glasses but has fashionable frames and lots of his friends also wear them.
I think it's probably true that everyone gets singled out about something. I'm sure he does know that in the long term it's to his advantage to do well at school.It's just that it's quite new to him to have this need to fit in.
He needs to develop a thicker skin because I'm sure things could be much worse and it's not malicious really. I was upset that his achievement was sullied by the reaction of his friends.
I'll see how it goes before approaching the school. This is bad timing because only last week we complained to the school that he was not being sufficiently challenged in his maths. ( I did stress that he must not be embarrassed in class by mention of my complaint).

pointydog Tue 30-Jun-09 18:10:32

I wouldn't go to the school yet. Maybe your ds has had a bit of an emotional day/week? He might tuff up a bit and shrug off the bof comments. Marks won't be given out every week so he might have a good few weeks in the run up to summer.

Mumwhensdinnerready Tue 30-Jun-09 18:31:23

I think he's generally a bit emotional at the moment, something quite alien to him! Hormones.

beetlebabe Wed 01-Jul-09 13:43:11

My Year 7 son has similar issues at his school:he's emabarrassed about doing well because he gets laughed at.He also did badly on purpose when he was selected for a national maths competition across schools as all his mates called it a nerd's competition!It's really frustrating but it's a national issue and peer pressure and approval is more important to my son than anything at moment.All we can do is tell him not to be influenced by people who he probably won't even see in 4 years time and that how hard he works now will affect his future.We tell him if he wants money and a lifestyle where he has choice he needs to work and not let other people embarrass him - but hey since when did our opinions seem relevant or hindsight interesting to teenagers!
Streaming does help and I guess the culture in private schools helps too - but that's another issue!

slug Wed 01-Jul-09 13:50:15

There was a bit of research published a few years ago (sorry can't find it at the moment) which showed that people with A level maths earned, on average £10,000 a year more than those without, whether or not they had gone into a field where maths was a requirement. I used to dangle that one in front of my maths students in the hope it would inspire them to take some pride in their achievements.

webwiz Wed 01-Jul-09 19:28:53

Hi Mumwhensdinnerready, perhaps your son will feel better about himself when he gets a little older and isn't so worried about standing out. Being 6' tall means you can't hide away if your feeling a bit shy and adults probably expect him to act in an older way. I'd celebrate his achievements as much as possible and make a big deal over the fact that he worked hard as well as the result.

Maybe he could do some confidence building things over the summer holidays - these depend on what's appropriate for him and you but something like planning and preparing a meal for the family (girls are always impressed by a boy who can cook!) or doing something a bit out of his comfort zone like going to a sports club where he doesn't know lots of people. Anything, no matter how small, that gives him a sense of achievement.

piscesmoon Wed 01-Jul-09 19:49:55

It is a very tricky one, my DSs school have worked hard to try and get away from that negative thinking that comes from boys-they are making it 'cool to be clever' since DS is now in 6th form I'm not sure how it is working except that my neighbours DS who was 'one of the lads' seems to be buckling down and achieving.
All my friends DSs who have top maths degrees seem to have very good, well paid jobs-I would concentrate on that.

EachPeachPearMum Wed 01-Jul-09 20:04:11

I do think he has to emphasise the long game to them- as in yeah... laugh now, but you losers won't be laughing in 10 years time when I'm doing well for myself, and you're working in <insert local dead-end dump>
Also- it's worth him thinking about the fact that he isn't a swot- he's just clever- and therefore cleverer than them grin

BCNS Wed 01-Jul-09 20:04:38

ahhh doesn't really help.. but ds1 had this at about the same age with the same subject.
so I asked him what he did.. and he said he mostly ignored it..and then he punched one of the lads doing it.. and it stopped. blush.

but.. on a more helpful note.. he can play it down, or he could say " that is cos I is the amaizingist".. which is what ds1 does now.. and all the pupils around laugh!

I assume he'll get streamed soon, and it will be less of a problem.

DS1 says to say to your ds " don't worry mate, chin up and remember your more likey to get a better job.. so when your driving round in your sports car, with your fit girlfriend..and they don't .. then see who it bothers!"

( if that didn't make sense sorry I was typing exactly what ds was telling me to!)

honeyandlemon Thu 02-Jul-09 22:02:00

Hi - my son (now at university) was very academic at school. We decided when he was about 12 that he needed to do more sport so that he balanced his time, and got to know a range of children. He signed up for two sports, enjoyed it and now still enjoys academic work and sports as well. It worked for us - so maybe worth a try??

missingtheaction Thu 02-Jul-09 22:13:30

Whatever happens, take time now to sort this. I am very sorry to report that this happened to ds when he first arrived at his new school. As he is allergic to sport and at the autistic end of the normal range (ie rubbish social awareness) it held him back a lot. He placed himself firmly in the middle range and refused to shine or go the extra mile.

It's not the only reason he has underachieved - pathalogical laziness and lack of direction haven't helped - but I do think it was a contributor. sad

Mumwhensdinnerready Fri 03-Jul-09 16:54:49

Thank you all for the benefit of your experience and constructive ideas.
I've talked it through with him and he "seems" to believe in the long term benefits of his ability. He also concedes that the teasing isn't really nasty just that he's fed up of it.
He's discovered a liking for athletics and DH took him to an athletics club last night which was a great success. Hopefully he'll meet some new people with a shared interest in athletics.

bloss Fri 03-Jul-09 17:12:37

Message withdrawn

Granny23 Fri 03-Jul-09 17:16:28

I was 'top of the class' most of the time at school, particularly with maths (used to get 100% which guarantees first or first equal) but I did not suffer teasing or abuse. My attitude was always 'well someone has to be first, it just happens to be me'. I was rubbish at sports being small and plumpish but we got house points for academic subjects as well as sports, crafts, etc. so I was a useful points earner for 'the team'.

BTW being a maths genius never did me any good financially. My ability was viewed more like a party trick. Working class girls left school at 15 and went to work end of.

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