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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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Am I being unreasonable?

1240 votes. Final results.

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pollymere · 21/01/2024 14:19

Meh... So many of these perfect kids are irritating and annoying. And they lose out on other things or burn out young. I didn't get the GCSES I was predicted because I realised I wanted to go out on a Saturday more. I don't think it really affected my career choices and I ended up working really hard academically when I was motivated to do so - in my early thirties.

My DC got total burnout at Grammar School from trying to be the perfect student and left school without GCSES. Now studying something they want to study and under their own motivation aged 17.

When it comes to memories you don't want to recall working all the time and days stuffed with after-school clubs unless that's what YOU really want. It's the Saturdays I spent going to town to hang out with my mates that I have memories of.

Your children sound great and well-rounded. Possibly not a "joy to teach" and exasperating that both you and their teachers know they could achieve so much more but enjoy them for who they are rather than wishing for an extremely dull alternative.

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aseekingseeker · 21/01/2024 15:43

@pollymere Yes, the socialising and going out are definitely higher on the agenda with my two. ;)
Thanks, it's great that your DC has found their 'thing' now.
I do enjoy my kids but it is, as you say, exasperating at times!

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TheMoth · 21/01/2024 15:56

What does sadden me about my dc though, is that neither have any interest in art or music. We've tried instruments and they've seen me learn one as an adult, but it leaves them cold. Equally, I used to spend hours drawing and making things, but neither have any interest and is not really something you can make them do. I don't care about either of them being good at that sort of thing, but I do feel they're missing out on other pleasures.

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User14March · 21/01/2024 16:27

@TheMoth It’s tough when you have an abiding passion they don’t share, but I’ve seen it when in 30s/40s/50s where they suddenly morph into Mum & cultivate these tastes…;) In my family walks after lunch, de rigeur, we teens loathed!

Guess who is keeping the walking trad alive now ;)

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indy69 · 21/01/2024 16:36

@aseekingseeker my DC went to a highly academic school - the top 1% in the world kind. She never had stellar grades and was coasting along until the GCSEs where she got 7s 8s and 9s. She is doing architecture now and got into 3 of the 5 she applied to in the UK and 5 out of 7 in the US. My point is I have been there and they do change when it counts. Our children are listening and will surprise you when they do or say something you wanted them to focus on. Keep the faith. I was you a few years ago when I said and thought the same thing why don't they want to go the extra mile? They do eventually it is part of growing up. Good luck. I promise you they are listening.

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mumindoghouse · 21/01/2024 17:44

So you may be wrong about which kid will get the furthest in real life. My most successful sibling achieved the least of the 3 of us in school. I’m very proud of them, and my other sibling and I wish we’d realised earlier that good enough was enough.

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PollyPut · 21/01/2024 18:01

I would start by thinking about your 15 year old and their plans for next year. Are they on track to get the grades for their plans for next year? If not, or if they might not be, then do they know this yet? What is their back up plan?

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mumindoghouse · 21/01/2024 18:03

Was looking for an old photo for DH when came across DS2 old homework essay (photographed and sent to avoid another detention no doubt 🤦‍♀️). It was a speech about how contradictory school was, how limited by a government curriculum that neither reflected all his culture or his interests, and how he couldn’t see it having any application in real life. He’d have been a rebellious 14/15 at the time. But that’s perhaps why school isn’t for everyone.
We parents perhaps all need to chillax a bit as perhaps comparisons are driven by an inner critic suggesting we are not good enough Mums when we most of us are doing our best, and our best is plenty good enough.

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Sennelier1 · 21/01/2024 18:14

Seems like your children do well and are happy with their lives the way they are now. Maybe they wouldn't if and when doing all you would like them to do? Anyway, once you're a grown-up in the real world nobody cares any longer you got a prize at the end of a schoolyear. All people want to know is are you good at your job and are you a good person.

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TheRingmistress · 21/01/2024 19:00

Stop torturing yourself! All anyone should want for their kids is that they grow up healthy, happy, and making their own way in the world.. I was the underachieving smart kid, and my friends mum used to phone mine after every assessment/report/test/exam results to make sure I was still not chasing higher grades. It was soul destroying for both of us. So my pal would spend the extra time, go the extra mile, do the extra activities... and I didn't. I didn't want to.
Chill. Let your kids be who they are, and take the time to get to know them. Love them for who they are now. Listen, encourage, and let them make mistakes. That's how we learn.

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TheMoth · 21/01/2024 19:59

User14March · 21/01/2024 16:27

@TheMoth It’s tough when you have an abiding passion they don’t share, but I’ve seen it when in 30s/40s/50s where they suddenly morph into Mum & cultivate these tastes…;) In my family walks after lunch, de rigeur, we teens loathed!

Guess who is keeping the walking trad alive now ;)

It's not even an abiding passion; I'm your classic jack of all trades, it just disappoints me how narrow their interests are- and it's not for lack of trying. At their age I wrote, drew, played instruments, did craft stuff, wrote to people, read, read, read, played on my Sega, wandered the streets with friends. Even when I was out clubbing every week at 16, I still did other stuff.

Was pre mobile phone and on demand telly though.... and I am an adult who needs to be busy.

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Supersares · 21/01/2024 20:00

The ring mistress, this was me too. Found school work easy but I lacked a bit of confidence so didn’t aspire to be successful. I left school at 16.
There seems to be more pressure these days too on both parents and children. Schools are seemingly obsessed with performing well over happiness, it’s a shame.

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User14March · 21/01/2024 20:23

We had less to do. One of the greatest writers at school with me was at boarding school in India from 8-13. Whilst there she HAD to read every classic novel, no choice, or faced being disciplined. She said also there was no TV. She got stuck in and she was just the most brilliant writer and so widely read. Then it was that virtuous circle thing, she was streets ahead of all of us in our comp. She even knew Latin which meant English comps etc and even French etc, came fairly intuitively and naturally.

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Ankoredown · 21/01/2024 21:12

This is so interesting, because I started a not too dissimilar thread about toddler development which prompted some similar responses.

Anyway. who knows what's happening for these other children you note who are impossibly polite, kind, hard working genius', wanting to do all extra curricular activities without any kind of battle. Maybe they are just like that, and they are happy and fair play to them.

However, like others, I would sound a note of caution. I was an overachieving child by any definition and did all sorts of extra curricular activities, winning prizes etc etc. (I was and am ugly AF though so not neatly turned out hah).

What was going on behind that achievement? Abuse and a life that was miserable, where academic achievement was the only thing celebrated - and even then, only if you were absolutely TOP TOP and even then you were not allowed to be proud of yourself or really talk about it because that was not appropriate / a sin (I'm not joking). I did all the things at school because a) i wanted to be out of the house and b) I was trying to win my mothers approval (well, love really). I never won it.

Now? I'm 40, I live with chronic depression and anxiety that is crippling and have done since late teens. I don't know how to feel proud of my own child. I do not celebrate any of my own achievements. In many ways, life is really hard.
My sibling on the other hand - was loved. They didn't do extra curricular anything. They didn't work particularly hard at school, favouring socialising and just doing things they liked. They now earn probably double than me, they have multiple hobbies (I have none) and a very active social life (I have little - due to mental health problems).

So TL: DR, your kids sound happy. Love them, make them feel safe and encourage them to do the things they are interested in. Everything else follows.

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Sparklehaze · 23/01/2024 16:27

I am stunned that this is a thing for you? it seems rather all about you more than your children. How you feel, not how happy they are.

  1. I have 4 grown up kids, one is autistic and never leaves the house, another has autistic traits and is struggling with life. All I want for them is a normal life that they can enjoy. My wife works as a teacher in a special needs school. Those parents will never get anywhere near normal lives for their children. What you seem to want is extra icing on your cake.

  2. I was a daydreaming airhead all through my teens, never put in an ounce of effort on education. However, I ended up with an honours degree, an amazing job that I have had for decades and I think I have achieved much. Don't judge your children now, wait and see what they will become.

    We all want our children to do well in life, but you can't force them to do what they don't want to. Try and guide them but let them be who they will be.

    Just my opinion ...
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Blueballoons1 · 19/03/2024 14:30

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).

How do you know anything about the other kids? Are their parents boastful?

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Blueballoons1 · 19/03/2024 14:32

User14March · 21/01/2024 20:23

We had less to do. One of the greatest writers at school with me was at boarding school in India from 8-13. Whilst there she HAD to read every classic novel, no choice, or faced being disciplined. She said also there was no TV. She got stuck in and she was just the most brilliant writer and so widely read. Then it was that virtuous circle thing, she was streets ahead of all of us in our comp. She even knew Latin which meant English comps etc and even French etc, came fairly intuitively and naturally.

This is a great point. Many parents are now prioritising mental health & are very careful not to push their dc, no limits on screen time.. The highest achieving kids I know get very little to no screen time & they are very happy & well adjusted!

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ftp · 20/03/2024 13:40

Tell your 15 year old that the harder he works for the next few months, the easier his life will be for the rest of it. Good grades get better jobs, and more money for the same amount of effort.
It may be that they have not yet found anything that interests them enough, some of the best astronomers, car mechanics, racing car crews, chefs did not learn that in school BUT many of them did need the school grades to open the doors to get into those in the first place

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