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In feeling that when children really underachieve it's not always the fault of schools or parents

62 replies

nicoleshitzinger · 03/09/2015 17:11

Feeling really sad and a failure as a mum at the moment. I'm a qualified teacher, though non-practising these days, yet my children are really underachieving at school.

My bright dd adamantly rejected every offer of help from me or anyone else, scarcely bothered with any of her lessons from years 8 - 11, and left school this summer with 2 GCSE's.

My middle child has just started secondary school and is having strops about me wanting to have any input into his work. He got a level 6 in his maths in year 6 under his own steam, with no maths practice or any other input from home, or tutoring (as he seemed to be making reasonable progress we just stood back and didn't interfere). I would just stand back and accept he wants to do things on his own if his literacy wasn't really weak to the point that he will struggle a lot if he doesn't do something to improve it. At 12 he should be using capital letters, full-stops, and writing in complex sentences surely? But like his sister he has been massively resistant to any input from DH and me. He will really find any essay based subject difficult at secondary if he doesn't improve his writing drastically.

Every time I hear someone talking about how support from home is absolutely crucial in helping a child succeed at school it's like a knife to my heart, and I feel so sad and guilty. I want to help my children but they have always been so difficult about accepting my input, no matter how gently it's offered.

Does anyone else experience this with their children? I feel absolutely gutted that my kids have so much potential that may never be fully realised, because they pig-headedly refuse to accept any help and guidance from adults who are willing and able to help them. It's the most frustrating experience and I'm feeling very sad about it.

OP posts:

Goshthatsspicy · 03/09/2015 17:14

My eldest son is the same. Massive potential, wrong envenvironment. From now on l will homeschooling (un - schooled) he is also 16, so l understand your frustration. Feel free to message me if that helps. Smile


cailindana · 03/09/2015 17:15

Have you talked to them about they feel about it?


PolterGoose · 03/09/2015 17:19

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

feckitall · 03/09/2015 17:26

I agree OP..Some DC are just resistant to help/advice and encouragement
DS1 was an underachiever too..He is eventually was asked to leave his private school (there on a bursary) poor behaviour, average results with no effort. Now 27, he is just about to go to uni. Was diagnosed with aspergers as an adult but also has MH problems.
You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
I was an underachiever too but that was due to low expectations of me both at home and school...I'm also doing a degree part time now.


nicoleshitzinger · 03/09/2015 17:27

"Have you talked to them about they feel about it?"

Um, yes. Confused

OP posts:

nicoleshitzinger · 03/09/2015 17:32

My children seem to be unable to try hard at anything.

Everything my son has achieved (his level 6 in maths and grade 4 in piano and drums plus lots first prizes in music competitions) is done with minimum effort. He has to be nagged and nagged to do even 15 minutes music practice a day. It'd all be fine if he was as good at English as he is at maths and music, but his writing is really weak.

I feel absolutely gutted that the only thing my children seem to care about is bloody Playstation, and their phones/gadgets. I suppose that's my fault for letting them have stuff like that.

OP posts:

DawnOfTheDoggers · 03/09/2015 17:35

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsTerryPratchett · 03/09/2015 17:38

The race isn't won in the first few steps. School may not be where they find their joy. I was a lazy arse at school. However, working with offenders, addicts and marginalised people, I work hard. Because I actually give a crap about that.

What do they love? If it's music and tech for your DS, what about sound engineering? He'll be working with musicians so no one will care if he uses capital letters.


Goshthatsspicy · 03/09/2015 17:43

Totally agree with MrsTerry
As a side, has he been assessed for dysgraphia?
My youngest son has this, and can be given extra time in exams/have a scribe. As his hands hurt and ache from the strain.


Mistigri · 03/09/2015 17:43

I don't think asking nicely is necessarily the way to do it.

If he's just unwilling then a bit of carrot and stick is still an option in Y7. OTOH, an 11-12 year old who can't use capital letters and full stops may well have a learning disability of some sort. I think I'd want an assessment tbh (privately if you can afford it although the school should also be concerned about a bright pupil who is struggling with writing to this extent).

It may be that because of an underlying issue, writing is genuinely difficult for him - bright children sometimes produce poor written work not because they are not trying, but because writing is a cognitively demanding task for them and they can focus either on the physical act of writing or on the content, but not both at the same time. The source of the difficulty could be a coordination issue (dyspraxia), it could be an attention disorder (ADD) or it could be something else entirely. These difficulties are often hard to diagnose in bright children who can compensate for their weaknesses at primary school but eventually run out of steam, and they often run in the family so it may be that your older child was affected too.


Goshthatsspicy · 03/09/2015 17:44

And dawn that is exactly how l feel now. Perfectly put.


Lowdoorinthewall · 03/09/2015 17:45

the only thing my children seem to care about is bloody Playstation, and their phones/gadgets

Take these away?


RachelZoe · 03/09/2015 17:45

In the most neutral way, could you explain what you mean exactly by

is having strops about me wanting to have any input into his work.

Could they feel harassed or under too much pressure if your wanting to have input is too much? I know that some of my kids friend's parents idea of "input" is to take over the whole show and push them to an unhealthy degree.

To answer your question, yes, there are some kids who aren't suited to formal education/academics, some kids just don't have that drive/work ethic, some kids aren't as bright as parents think they are, tons of reasons that might have zero to do with the school or the parents. You are certainly not a failure as a mum because they aren't high academic achievers, there is more to life than grades.


manicinsomniac · 03/09/2015 17:47

YANBU, there can be lots of other factors involved - laziness, self esteem, MH problems, immaturity, not being suited to the environment, just preferring other things ... and so on.

How does your daughter feel now? Is she upset? It's not too late. One set of poor exam results at 16 doesn't have to define her life unless she lets it. Even if she doesn't decide not to let it until her 30s.


Rarity08 · 03/09/2015 17:53

Terry I agree.
I was crap at school, but studied to degree level in my thirties in a subject connected to the job I loved in social care.
Lots of mature students I met didn't do well at school, but went on to achieve through subjects they felt passionate about.


W00t · 03/09/2015 17:55

It's because they haven't been taught to work hard. They've probably heard from toddler good how clever they are, well done sweetheart, you're such a good girl/boy.
This kind of praise is self-defeating in the long run. Children think they're Automatically good at everything and when they hit something difficult they don't know how to put effort in.

I'm the same BTW, nothing stretched me, until postgraduate level, so I continuously underachieved. It wasn't until I started working (at 16, PT) that i realised what hard work was. Thankfully, my work ethic in the workplace has helped me have a successful career.


APlaceOnTheCouch · 03/09/2015 17:58

I think you're writing them off a bit early by saying they have so much potential that may never be fully realised And I know you put a conditional in there but I understand you're upset but maybe cut you and them some slack.

YY as PPs have said, your DCs' talents may lie in other areas or they may come back to academia later. I have a nephew who is very bright but he didn't try at school, left everything to the last minute, etc. He always did the absolute bare minimum. I think he was just immature. He is now 23 and after messing about for a few years, he completed an access course and has just started his law degree.

I can understand why you're frustrated and upset but they will find their own path whether than includes further or higher education or not, and at least you know you have offered support.


MaddyinaPaddy · 03/09/2015 18:02

IME the surest way to turn a kid off school work is for the parents to start interfering.You have to let them own it.


Keeptrudging · 03/09/2015 18:07

My eldest has an IQ over 150. Very, very bright. Totally underachieved at school, left school and home at 16 by choice. Has been working on his own initiative since then in his chosen field (music related), he's been self - supporting in his own flat and is amazing. He hated school, I tried everything, nothing worked.


Goshthatsspicy · 03/09/2015 18:10

On a very practical level, GCSE exams are about to change.
No course work. Exam results only. This will help bring get grades back to a more realistic measuring system.
Too many parents help with h/work. Wink


MoonriseKingdom · 03/09/2015 18:18

I am sure as a teacher you have considered this but is it possible your son has an undiagnosed problem such as dyslexia. In a very bright child (level 6 in maths suggests this) it may be more easily missed.

Some people are just late bloomers or take a while to realise what is important to them. I have one friend who was written off by her secondary school. They didn't want her to stay on in 6th form. She did a GNVQ in a subject that interested her and suddenly blossomed. She got a first at university and has gone on to have a very successful career in teaching.

Another friend was clever but lazy. He put in minimal effort at school and first two years of uni. He put in some last minute effort and got a 2:1 in the end. He now has a very well payed job in marketing. His personality and social skills have been far more the root of his success than any academic achievement.


SheepishWoolf · 03/09/2015 18:37

Hi, this is ringing bells for me, and based on my family experience, I think you've got 2 different issues going on here. If i understand you properly, your DD refused to engage with school and her qualitfiactions suffered, but your son is engaging with school and doing well except in English, but is not happy to accept your active involvement with his school work.

My now 15 year old DS is exactly the same - happy to engage with school but demanding complete ownership of his own work - and the problems with English. He was was tested in Year 6 and was diagnosed with 'possibly has a form of dyslexia linked to pattern forming'. He did really well in SATS because of their structured, lack of extensive written work format, and when he went up to Year 7 he still really struggled to produce written work - his content was fine, 'if you could read it'. We got him extra help with practising writing but he didn't progress. In Year 8 his science teacher suggested he use a laptop, as this was allowed in school for those who needed it. We bought him a cheap 2nd hand one, and he took off. He uses his laptop in lessons, and in exams - inclduing the Biology and Statistics GCSEs he took in Year 10 this summer (the way school structures exams, not particular genius on his part.) Spelling, punctuation, sentance formation - he's off and running. It seems that in some way it was physically having to use a pen that was holding him back.

Support from home is crucial, but sometimes that support is most effective if it is strategic rather than tactical! I still have no idea about what his day to day homework involves, but the school reports he's complying with all their requirements, and on course for good grades at GCSE, so I trust him to continue in his own methods, with the new equipment we've helped to provide him with.


Verbena37 · 03/09/2015 18:42

Have you thought that your son might have dyslexia? If he finds writing, grammar, spelling etc difficult to grasp? If he is finding it particularly hard, it may be worth getting him assessed.


Jw35 · 03/09/2015 18:47

It's always the parents fault. My eldest struggles with maths. I believe she could be ok at it but I haven't put enough effort in and finishing work at 6 while she was at primary has been really unhelpful :( I don't think its at all easy being a parent but you sound like you need a break from feeling guilty so my advice is to just accept you tried your best and hopefully it's enough


SheGotAllDaMoves · 03/09/2015 18:55

I know from your previous posts nicole that your DD's behaviour has been very extreme.

Could your son's resistance to effort/failure be linked to his elder sister's behaviour? He has seen and heard and experienced a lot of inappropriate behaviour from her. That is bound to have had an impact on his self esteem (often linked with fear of failure).

He has also seen the sheer amount of engagement his sister's behaviour has garnered and has perhaps learned a good way (in his young eyes) to garner some attention for himself.

How to fix this? Tough one. First build your DS self esteem. Build, build, build. And try to disengage from your DD (as best you can). She is 16 and has to take a lot of the responsibility for herself. Don't let her suck all the parental attention any longer.

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