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AIBU?

To feel sad when I compare my kids with other children...

393 replies

aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 08:39

This is, I appreciate, a very sensitive subject. I love my children, more than anything, but I'm finding it increasingly sad and frustrating that they don't seem to want to do as well as they could do, or go the extra mile.

I also realise that this is most definitely a First World Problem but we have very close friends, including children at similar ages and two of their 3 kids go to the same school as my children (aged 15 and 11). I know you can't know for sure, but we have shared lots of info so I know that our children are of a similar intelligence but theirs just seem to want to go the extra mile and excel. Their kids work so, so hard, and are always perfectly behaved and turned out. I know comparing like this never does any good but I just can't help it.

My two kids attend an academic school and are doing very well, but never quite excelling. My youngest, in particular is very, very bright and would easily score highly without any revision. We do encourage working hard and revising but they have so far not been to pick up the prizes at the end of the year, I think, because both kids have a 'bare minimum' stance when it comes to homework (to be fair, I don't think they care about prizes, it's me, but I just don't get why they wouldn't care - that's what gets me). They both have very high predictions but don't work enough or in the right way to hit these targets. I've always been trying to get involved but they're very much 'we want to do it our way'.

Neither of my two want to go to extracurriculars such as creative writing, debating, politics etc etc. They dabble in sport.

The other family (and in fact we know two) basically have 3 kids who ALWAYS go the extra mile, who are ALWAYS polite (I don't think in the ten years we've known them, these kids have ever put their foot wrong or lost their temper), who ALWAYS look smartly turned out, not a shirt ever needed to be tucked in (unlike my two!).

I know these kids well and they are clearly bright but, honestly, I don't think smarter than our kids (or others in their respective year groups) but they work so, so hard and achieve accordingly - all three of them! Basically across the board. If their mum asks them to go to a club or do something, they do it. They don't watch telly and certainly don't do gaming/phone in the week. I don't think they have time tbh as they work so hard.

Don't get me wrong, my children are generally polite (to others at least) and we have lots of fun, but I continually get push back, especially from the eldest who is very much turning into a 'teenager'.

I just wish I could bottle what the other family are doing. I do feel I have 'failed' in some respects and although I love the other families, I sometimes wish had friends who were less 'perfect'. I know that's probably completely U-N-R-E-A-S-O-N-A-B-L-E.

For context, the other family have a couple of teacher grandparents (on either side), including a secondary teacher in STEM, who are very involved with their grandkids and do most of the after-school care as both parents are working. So I'm sure there is something in that which helps but it can't be everything. And it's not a 'cultural' thing either; nor is it a family that use threats etc, they're super calm.

What am I doing wrong?

How do I make my children WANT to work hard, look smart etc (both DH and I dress smartly and care how we are turned out, and we both work hard - including when we were at school - although I work p/t during school hours).

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TiaSeeya · 21/01/2024 09:14

Not sure I’d say work ethic, confidence and resilience are the most important attributes. They are for work.

How about empathy, compassion, humour and listening skills?

Life isn’t all about work.

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Undethetree · 21/01/2024 09:16

@Needathickskin

" Mine are lovely and work well at school but appear to have opted for advanced partying rather than multiple musical instruments "

😂😂😂

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aseekingseeker · 21/01/2024 09:25

Not had time to go through but I don't think everyone has read my posts in full. I do not compare them with others (it's in my mind, I'm sure most people compare their lives, work, etc etc at some times??). I do let them dress how they want but do feel slightly envious of other kids looking so pristine.
My kids are loved and I'm not a hypercritical person at all, but I do find it frustrating when people are lazy and don't try their best, at least most of the time.

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Flensburg · 21/01/2024 09:34

aseekingseeker · 21/01/2024 09:25

Not had time to go through but I don't think everyone has read my posts in full. I do not compare them with others (it's in my mind, I'm sure most people compare their lives, work, etc etc at some times??). I do let them dress how they want but do feel slightly envious of other kids looking so pristine.
My kids are loved and I'm not a hypercritical person at all, but I do find it frustrating when people are lazy and don't try their best, at least most of the time.

I'm interested in why these things matter to you?
I mean, people not trying their best or how they dress matter not to me in the least, but they do to my sister. She has admitted that the dress thing is because she thinks of her multiply pierced and tattooed adult daughter as a reflection of her and believes others will judge her for it.
I'm not saying either my sister or I is "right", but I wonder if it might be useful to you to think about why these things matter to you, and whether they really are important.

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aseekingseeker · 21/01/2024 09:36

@Flensburg I don't actually care at all at home but their school is very strict on uniform and have sanctions. I think it sends a message out - a bit like looking reasonably smart for work - and it will make a difference in how you are seen by the teachers, I'm sure of that.

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Supersares · 21/01/2024 09:41

It’s human nature to compare your children and yourself to other people. It’s easier to accept that we’re all different and once you’ve done that and you realise they’re happy and healthy, then you might find it bit easier?

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IpsyUpsyDaisyDoos · 21/01/2024 09:44

I have read your post in full. And whether you do it in your own head or not, the fact that you feel sad that they aren't like the children you're envious of will come through. Whether you want it to or not, it's subconscious but your kids will sense that feeling.

Your kids sound amazing. And happy. Which, in my humble opinion, is worth so much more than any prize or grade. Feel pride in that rather than sadness they haven't done what someone else has. It will shine through and they will feel secure and valued.

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aseekingseeker · 21/01/2024 09:48

aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 08:39

This is, I appreciate, a very sensitive subject. I love my children, more than anything, but I'm finding it increasingly sad and frustrating that they don't seem to want to do as well as they could do, or go the extra mile.

I also realise that this is most definitely a First World Problem but we have very close friends, including children at similar ages and two of their 3 kids go to the same school as my children (aged 15 and 11). I know you can't know for sure, but we have shared lots of info so I know that our children are of a similar intelligence but theirs just seem to want to go the extra mile and excel. Their kids work so, so hard, and are always perfectly behaved and turned out. I know comparing like this never does any good but I just can't help it.

My two kids attend an academic school and are doing very well, but never quite excelling. My youngest, in particular is very, very bright and would easily score highly without any revision. We do encourage working hard and revising but they have so far not been to pick up the prizes at the end of the year, I think, because both kids have a 'bare minimum' stance when it comes to homework (to be fair, I don't think they care about prizes, it's me, but I just don't get why they wouldn't care - that's what gets me). They both have very high predictions but don't work enough or in the right way to hit these targets. I've always been trying to get involved but they're very much 'we want to do it our way'.

Neither of my two want to go to extracurriculars such as creative writing, debating, politics etc etc. They dabble in sport.

The other family (and in fact we know two) basically have 3 kids who ALWAYS go the extra mile, who are ALWAYS polite (I don't think in the ten years we've known them, these kids have ever put their foot wrong or lost their temper), who ALWAYS look smartly turned out, not a shirt ever needed to be tucked in (unlike my two!).

I know these kids well and they are clearly bright but, honestly, I don't think smarter than our kids (or others in their respective year groups) but they work so, so hard and achieve accordingly - all three of them! Basically across the board. If their mum asks them to go to a club or do something, they do it. They don't watch telly and certainly don't do gaming/phone in the week. I don't think they have time tbh as they work so hard.

Don't get me wrong, my children are generally polite (to others at least) and we have lots of fun, but I continually get push back, especially from the eldest who is very much turning into a 'teenager'.

I just wish I could bottle what the other family are doing. I do feel I have 'failed' in some respects and although I love the other families, I sometimes wish had friends who were less 'perfect'. I know that's probably completely U-N-R-E-A-S-O-N-A-B-L-E.

For context, the other family have a couple of teacher grandparents (on either side), including a secondary teacher in STEM, who are very involved with their grandkids and do most of the after-school care as both parents are working. So I'm sure there is something in that which helps but it can't be everything. And it's not a 'cultural' thing either; nor is it a family that use threats etc, they're super calm.

What am I doing wrong?

How do I make my children WANT to work hard, look smart etc (both DH and I dress smartly and care how we are turned out, and we both work hard - including when we were at school - although I work p/t during school hours).

Can't seem to edit. For clarification, as not clear to many, I don't compare my children openly or tell them. Of course not! It's in my head, and it's not like it's bringing me down. An observation, and maybe 'sad' is too strong a word but still would love it if my DC had that inner drive. One does more than the other, I do accept them for what they are but I'm just being honest and finding it frustrating at times they don't try their best to reach their potential.

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Ohhelpicantthinkofaname · 21/01/2024 09:55

Having had a perfectionist dd who made herself quite unwell with stress during A levels, I’m glad that dd2 is more of a coaster. She’ll do well enough to go on to do what she wants next without the stress and pressure dd1 put on herself. Both kids raised the same, just different personalities.

better that kids are happy than massively high achievers who put so much pressure on themselves they end up ill, from the outside dd1 would have seemed perfect just like your friends kids. I’d honestly rather DD2s chilled approach, think doing 5 mins revision for a mock exam in the car on the way to school and then breezing in without a care in the world. She’s bright enough, she’ll do fine, not as well as she could, but we’ll enough and that’s ok.

don’t yearn after something that seems perfect from the outside. They may be struggling in reality and if they’re not now they may well come gcse, A level time. Your kids sound great.

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IpsyUpsyDaisyDoos · 21/01/2024 09:56

aseekingseeker · 21/01/2024 09:48

Can't seem to edit. For clarification, as not clear to many, I don't compare my children openly or tell them. Of course not! It's in my head, and it's not like it's bringing me down. An observation, and maybe 'sad' is too strong a word but still would love it if my DC had that inner drive. One does more than the other, I do accept them for what they are but I'm just being honest and finding it frustrating at times they don't try their best to reach their potential.

Its only what you see as their potential though. Is getting all 9s in academic subjects actually going to help them become the adult they want to be?

My DH is insanely bright. If he'd applied himself at school, college, gone to uni etc he very well could have been at the top of his field in law/medicine/whatever by now. But he'd have been utterly miserable because he really loves physically doing things and problem solving/fixing things. Now, after a few false starts trying to be who he had been told he should be, he's doing really well using the skills he loves. He makes a difference in the world, does good and earns a pretty decent wage for it. But he hasn't "reached his potential" that his school teachers and his mum thought he had.

If they're happy and doing things that they enjoy well, they're more successful than anyone who is churning out high results but not actually enjoying their time.

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IpsyUpsyDaisyDoos · 21/01/2024 09:57

Also, no-one tell my DH I said he was insanely bright because I'll never hear the end of it 😅

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Stephenra · 21/01/2024 10:22

I deal with kids who've suffer under the inflated expectations of their parents, and I often come across adults who still carry the baggage around from that their whole lives. It's worse where I am (in Asia) but it's still something to be extremely cautious about.

Strongly suggest you google 'perfectionist parents' / 'damage of perfectionist parents' and 'dolphin parenting' and so on to get some more perspective.

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Mitramonday · 21/01/2024 10:26

Please…go easy on your kids!! I was ‘groomed’ (for want of a better word) to be a classical pianist and it took until I was 25 to be able to turn round and say that career wasn’t ‘me’. But the required perfectionism had been well and truly inserted into my being and has had devastating consequences in my life. LET YOUR CHILDREN FIND THEIR OWN NICHE and, for what it’s worth, I fear your friend’s children will suffer mightily from their constrained upbringing. Also, believe me, your jealousy/comparison WILL be leaching out for your kids to pick up on…you need to change YOUR attitude, not that of your kids! I wish you all well.

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Coldupnorth7 · 21/01/2024 10:26

And definitely your dc will know.

My straight A, super hardworking DH knows he's a disappointment to his parents.

Good job, lots of academic success, retirement early & he still comments that they would have preferred his friend as their kid.

His DF got to the top of his career, so DH was always stuffed to outdo him & knows it.

I'm nd so don't dgaf, too busy trying to stay sane. But your dc will feel the unspoken tut.

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greenbeansnspinach · 21/01/2024 10:30

Nothing I did was ever good enough for my mum, and I just felt like a disappointment. I was perfectly intelligent and did well when something sparked my interest, but mostly I was terminally bored at school. Now retired, I had a career in the “helping professions” and was able to make a difference to people’s lives and also influence policy in small ways. I was and am an independent thinker. There was no way I was going to fit in and achieve exam results for no reason I saw then or can see now. I was extremely relaxed with my own kids schooling. Because of my own experiences as a kid with my over involved mum standing over me, I probably was too relaxed. They didn’t “achieve” great exam results but are now happy, decent people working in extremely useful, reasonably well paid roles.

What is life really for? We don’t own our children.

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MigGirl · 21/01/2024 10:31

How do I make my children WANT to work hard, look smart etc (both DH and I dress smartly and care how we are turned out, and we both work hard - including when we were at school - although I work p/t during school hours).

To be honest I've no idea how you make them do anything. I've two children, oldest is like your friends kids works really hard does lots of extra circulum actives. She isn't supper bright but is intelligent and got good results for her GCSE'S last year. She hardly stops.
Second child has been encouraged just the same, he does 2 extra circulum activities because we make him. His default position is stop. He would do nothing if not encouraged and will only put in minium effort at school although is probably brighter then his sister.

I see her doing better in life just because she has drive while DS doesn't. We do try but it doesn't seem to make much difference 😕. I thank goodness that we insisted they do a sport from early on as I think that's important. DS has been given just as many opertunities as DD they are just different personalities. So please don't feel like you have failed, it could just be them.

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ellyeth · 21/01/2024 10:33

It's early days yet. Sometimes it's the "perfect" children who feel pressured at home to maintain that perfection. There's a risk that such expectations can cause behavioural or emotional issues later.

As others have said, your children are doing well, even if they don't "excel". They are generally pleasant and polite. Try and be content with that. It's what a lot of parents would be very happy with.

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Supersares · 21/01/2024 11:07

This just means they’re different. It’s actually fine not to be ambitious. I think you need to read around this for your own understanding and realise it’s not the end of the world. If your child isn’t super driven and ambitious. I know it sounds as if you are like this yourself and put a lot of value in it. So it’s understandable you feel a bit disappointed. One of your children isn’t driven. But honestly, as I said earlier, be grateful that they’re happy and healthy concentrate on that and remember it is something that could develop as they get older as well. My son was average academically throughout school. However you went on to do ok with A-levels, first class honest degree maths with a prize for the best project. He became driven and now earns a good salary, however growing up he never showed any signs of ambition. You really need to chill out over this stop dwelling on it and try and focus on all the great stuff you have already . Sorry to feel like I’m telling you off, but I think you need to get perspective on this.

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Londoner89 · 21/01/2024 12:04

Is this post for real?

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TimeForTeaAndG · 21/01/2024 12:11

As a former "perfect child" I can almost guarantee that when those other kids get out into the real world they'll be the ones partying hard and falling apart harder.

Your kids sounds great, enjoy them for who they are. So what if they don't achieve their academic potential just now, there's college, and open university, and evening classes IF they want to do that later. So much is made of getting amazing grades then going to uni but it really, really, really isnt the perfect way for every child.

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Poppysmom22 · 21/01/2024 12:16

You could be my friend she’s totally driven always the best at everything always succeeding getting the promotion etc but her little girl is a dolly day dreamer it’s like she brought the wrong baby home they are so different she really can’t accept that this beautiful imaginative little girl is not going to be just like her it’s painful to watch as her daughter loves her mum so much and desperately wants to please her but that’s just not who she is

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Girliefriendlikespuppies · 21/01/2024 12:33

You sound so disappointed in your kids which is terrible and your kids will know (on some level) that's how you feel.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

You have healthy, happy kids - be grateful!!

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Howmanysleepsnow · 21/01/2024 12:54

I understand what you mean. There’re 2 brothers in my youngest 2’s years who consistently play violin solos in nativity plays/ take tennis lessons/ do high school science in y6 (mum teaches)/ extra curricular language lessons etc etc. They consistently get awards appraise in school and are always well turned out.
Conversely, my ds10 is the one sneaking back upstairs to change into his age 8-9 school trousers that are too short because “they’re comfier”, convincing teachers through pure charisma that he’s hard working and capable despite evidence to the contrary and refusing any extra curricular activities except football and guitar because they’re cool.
DS11 has all his teachers convinced of his amazing leadership qualities and maturity, whilst simultaneously doing homework in the morning before school and scraping into top set by the skin of his teeth despite being very intelligent. Interests are limited to computers and football!
Part of me wishes they had the focus and work ethic of the other boys, but another part of me thinks they’d be miserable with that lifestyle, and probably less confident. The other boys did flash cards constantly from 12 months old, don’t go to or have birthday parties or play dates and seem to have no downtime at all between the extracurricular stuff and school. Even in holidays they have camps/ clubs everyday. It wouldn’t suit my two, who enjoy having freedom, finding their own interests and spending time with friends. So far (y6 and 7) my boys are happy and confident and I’m hoping these are also skills/ qualities that will serve them as well as a strong work ethic might otherwise.

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Marblessolveeverything · 21/01/2024 13:31

Do you know why you feel they should do "their best" all the time? "Their best" or your version of their best means other things they value are not prioritised, it's a control issue.

I say the following as a help to figure out why you feel this way, don't answer here but do consider -Are you feel regretful of your personal achievements? Are you trying to rewrite history or place an adult's head on a child.

Society now recognises being best isn't without well being costs. Being satisfied happy and content is the priorities I have for my children.

Honestly I feel sorry and sad that this is in your head because the energy this takes is infringing on celebrating the wonderful children you have. And it doesn't sound like your mind is happy.

I hope you figure it out, it sounds uncomfortable.

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Fancyabikky · 21/01/2024 14:09

Please please do this compare your children
ughhhh my dad did this although i was academically great (never revised just had a general knack for school and achieved well) how ever i wasn’t musically gifted. Where as all the kids i grew up with were! This put huge pressure on me until this day it hurts real bad that he couldn’t see past the fact that I couldn’t ting a triangle!
How ever how time has evolved i have a successful business and ironically I’m with a musician who plays for one of the biggest artists in the UK- where are all those that i grew up with being compared to…..yeah unhappy, single, boring af!

my kids are great the youngest takes after daddy clearly as he’s interest in music is astounding but I’ll never push him. Yes i’d wish my older was more academically like me, but im sure she’ll find her way.

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