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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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27Mankinis · 19/01/2024 08:59

As a parent of a child who has learning difficulties and ASD who is unlikely to even get a GCSE (or live independently) I would say be thankful for the children you do have. And please don't compare them to others. They are their own people with their own talents and skills and strengths. There is a saying; 'Don't compare your insides to other people's outsides' which basically means you are only seeing what's on show. Not what else is going on.

We all want our children to excel and to thrive. But whatever that looks like may not be what it is for others.

I understand looking at other children and having mini-griefs at what they can't achieve compared to your own. I experience it almost every day when i see my 14 year old can't tie shoelaces or cross the road on his own. Or ride a bike. or swim. But what I do is shake myself hard and remind myself of his strength-s his empathy, his kindness, his humour, the fact that he is a total cat whisperer.

Your kids sound great. Embrace it.

Thanks

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TimeFlysWhenYoureHavingRum · 19/01/2024 08:59

If your kids are as bright as you claim then they have probably worked out that life is too short to not live it on your own terms and that the sausage machine of societal conformity is not where true happiness lies.
They sound great!

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ThunderSnacks · 19/01/2024 09:01

I was like your friend's children. It was followed by two serious mental health episodes in my twenties and very little self esteem outside of my "achievements".

My husband was like your children. Bright but not particularly hard working and preferred spending his time with his friends and on his hobbies. He's now a happy, confident, very successful adult with an extraordinarily robust sense of self.

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aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 09:02

@Seeline Thanks. The comparison bit I exaggerated a bit, perhaps, but it's the piece about how do you teach your children to always want to strive and do your best, is probably the bottom line really...

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cryinglaughing · 19/01/2024 09:03

As long as my dd's were happy, I was quite unconcerned about school.
One worked really hard, was predicted to get 4 or 5's but ended up with 6 being the lowest.
One did the bare minimum, school refused, hated school, had friendship troubles (ASD) but with a lot of cajoling and tears (mostly from me) turned up for her GCSE's. She did exceptionally well results wise.

Although school was only a couple of years back, it is a dim and distant memory.
The eldest always was a grafter and remains that way.
The younger, who who was ambivalent at school has found her niche and is a different person.

Celebrate your children for what they are, not what you wish they were.

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Floatlikeafeather2 · 19/01/2024 09:03

aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 08:49

@StopTheBusINeedAWeeWeeAWeeWeeBagOChips No, not bragging rights. I guess, having been very driven myself and wanting to do well (but not being a goody so and so), I just don't know why neither of mine are I suppose.

Because they're not you. When you have children you produce a new independent person, not a clone of you or even a perfect blend of you and your partner. Your expectations are unreasonable and I agree with PP that they will definitely be aware of your feelings, which seem to be bordering on displeasure and disappointment, whether or not you actually say "Why can't you be more like..." Why should they? They sound like they'll be fine.

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User3563573 · 19/01/2024 09:03

Ba careful because being highly competitive isn't always a good sign in kids. Obviously, there are always the "all rounders" who participate in extra activities for fun, but the ones with a fierce internal drive to be the best are usually not the most balanced (speaking from personal experience). Some might lack self esteem and looking for external sources of validation. Some might have narcissistic tendencies and looking for ways to feel superior. Some kids might be undiagnosed neurodivergent and become addicted to a particular activity because it aligns with their special interest. Many of these kids might have good records on paper but end up dealing with plenty of MH problems as adults due to the underlying factors.

I was one of those who did all the extra activities whilst maintaining top grades. I genuinely enjoyed the school experience but suffered from severe anxiety, phobias and fear of losing control. Turns out much later I had ADHD (possibly AuDHD) and a lot of my school achievements were due to hyperfocused special interests along with seeking external sources of self esteem to combat social anxiety and rejection sensitive dysphoria.

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aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 09:04

My kids are very sociable and happy. We watch TV together every night (well teen less so), and they are chatty and youngest, in particular, likes to state their views and has a great sense of humour.

Didn't meant for it to sound so sad, because it isn't, but it was the thing about 'how do you encourage people wanting to do their best' (and agree, perfectionism is not healthy).

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Cedar13 · 19/01/2024 09:04

Accept them for who they are. They are individuals in their own right. We can love and support and guide our children but we can’t change who they are. They will pick up on how you feel. If you accept them they might surprise you!
My mum never accepted who we were and tried to change us, we dont have a great relationship now (im in my 40s).

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WhenWereYouUnderMe · 19/01/2024 09:04

aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 09:02

@Seeline Thanks. The comparison bit I exaggerated a bit, perhaps, but it's the piece about how do you teach your children to always want to strive and do your best, is probably the bottom line really...

I think you can certainly role model that, but in my experience it comes when you find the right path for you when you get into the workplace. They're children, they have a lot of learning and growing still to do. It's ok.

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CarInsurance · 19/01/2024 09:06

I think you are possibly projecting what you want for your children over what your children want to do with their own lives. Having kids is often seen as selfish for this- you have them to potentially achieve something you yourself did not. I don't know if that is the case here but sometimes having a look at yourself in these times can help you realise it's not always a "them" problem but a "you" problem. Are you worried that you haven't instilled resilience and a keen desire to learn in them?

Otherwise I'd say it's completely normal for kids to be lazy arses. It's typical behaviour for teens who are growing, having to wake earlier than their circadian rhythm would normally want and spend the day learning very different chunks of information that they know they will be tested on and which will impact their future, let alone the hormones, friendship issues and desire for autonomy whilst having a low ability to assess risk. I often think we don't give teens enough credit for navigating the world.

On MN a lot of kids are doing multiple instruments to grade 8, 4 languages, play county level sports and are in top sets for everything. I have the opposite when I hear these stories and worry about the kids' being pushed to put a favourable light on the parents. I wonder how much they've had to loose in personal choice to excel in everything they've ever touched - we all know it's driven parents who start kids learning instruments at age 4, drive them around the country for matches etc. Having multiple kids who all do all the "things" seems to me to be an obvious mental health problem with the parents desperately needing to prove themselves in large part, although I recognise kids in families like this also become super competitive and want to one-up each other which perpetuates it until they burn out.

Personally I just want my kids to be normal and happy in their future - the less stress in their lives the better.

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aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 09:07

@27Mankinis lovely post and such wisdom. Thank you!

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MonsteraMama · 19/01/2024 09:07

Speaking as someone who had a mother who compared me to all my "perfect" friends (who I knew full fucking well were not in any way as perfect as their parents made them out to be) knock this off right now and get a grip.

Your children sound great. They're bright, doing fine in school, participating in sports... And even better they are already forging their own ideas for what they want in their futures, they're pushing back against you (they're meant to), they're developing into wonderful, brilliant, flawed individual human beings, instead of obediently pouring themselves into whatever moulds you've set out for them.

Love and cherish and appreciate the children you have, you are very fortunate. Being a hard working academic drone is not the only way to be a successful and happy human.

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ThunderSnacks · 19/01/2024 09:08

aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 09:04

My kids are very sociable and happy. We watch TV together every night (well teen less so), and they are chatty and youngest, in particular, likes to state their views and has a great sense of humour.

Didn't meant for it to sound so sad, because it isn't, but it was the thing about 'how do you encourage people wanting to do their best' (and agree, perfectionism is not healthy).

This sounds lovely! The two questions I wish my parents had asked me and really listened are 1) are you happy and 2) what do you actually love doing. Nothing else really matters.

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C1N1C · 19/01/2024 09:11

No refunds

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N4ish · 19/01/2024 09:11

You need to work on being grateful for the lovely healthy children that you have. Many, many people wish they had what you have. You will turn your children against you if they feel you’re constantly comparing them to others and feeling they come up short.

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Jump3roo · 19/01/2024 09:15

You sound like my mother. I was a teen who did enough, did well but wasn’t stellar. She didn’t speak to me for 2 weeks when I came home without straight A GCSEs.

Something clicked during A levels. I wanted it bad. I got 3 As, got into a great university to do a STEM subject, graduated with a first class degree, made quite a bit of money in industry before going back to university to do graduate medicine. I’m now working as a doctor in a competitive field.

Needless to say nobody gives a crap now about my B in design tech or RE or the fact I didn’t win school prizes. My mother and I are civil at best though, too much subconscious damage done during my teen years to have a good relationship. Please don’t look back and regret pushing them away at this stage.

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NotQuiteNorma · 19/01/2024 09:16

And therein lies your problem. Stop comparing your kids to other children and you may be a little more content with what you have. There isn't some ideal that has to be conformed to. They don't have to be like other children. That's what's so great about being unique individuals. The real problem here isn't your kids. It's your own lack of content and that's on you, not your kids. If you can't see how damaging this sort of unreasonable expectation is then I really feel sorry for your poor children because they will grow up knowing they were never good enough for you. Seriously, snap out of it and get your own help in place before your children grow up feeling they aren't good enough. Children with low esteem suffer terrible isolation and unfairness in life.

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Marblessolveeverything · 19/01/2024 09:20

What I and reading is your children have figured out the secret to life. Meet set standards, don't stress be happy.

What wonderful emotionally intelligent children - treasure them. You have no idea what demons of anxiety that others may have.

I have two, both bright, in university invite only programs. Oldest spends life worried about not getting top marks, works ridiculously hard finds balance hard. Anxiety is never far away.

The second has the attitude meet the standards and live. Guess which one is happier and probably will be more successful as their viewpoint of life is balanced.Both parented the same. I work in education, third level.

Being happy and fulfilled is the key education is important but it is a tool not the be all and end all.

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BallaiLuimni · 19/01/2024 09:20

Do you know why you want your children to strive and do their best? I know that sounds like a stupid question but it's worth trying to dig into what you're feeling and why you're so worried about it.

Funnily enough I was very very driven as a teenager and my daughter isn't at all and I'm so envious of her bare minimum attitude because I think that's a much much better approach in the long run - far more sustainable and fun.

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WinterLobelia · 19/01/2024 09:23

Jump3roo · 19/01/2024 09:15

You sound like my mother. I was a teen who did enough, did well but wasn’t stellar. She didn’t speak to me for 2 weeks when I came home without straight A GCSEs.

Something clicked during A levels. I wanted it bad. I got 3 As, got into a great university to do a STEM subject, graduated with a first class degree, made quite a bit of money in industry before going back to university to do graduate medicine. I’m now working as a doctor in a competitive field.

Needless to say nobody gives a crap now about my B in design tech or RE or the fact I didn’t win school prizes. My mother and I are civil at best though, too much subconscious damage done during my teen years to have a good relationship. Please don’t look back and regret pushing them away at this stage.

I had similar. My mother would be (occasionally violently) furious with me if I failed in some way. It would apparently 'show her up'.

Yet- oddly- she boasted and exaggerated and bragged about me to other people while denigrating me to me. So I had the odd situation where other parents and their children were hostile to me because I was apparently the perfect achieving child, yet I was getting it in the neck for not being that at home.

It's a dynamic that I have not yet managed to deal with and I moved countries 25 years ago and avoid my mother as much as possible.

NOT saying you are doing this, OP just to say!! You sound very reflective and thoughtful! Just @Jump3roo 's post brought up some of my old feelings about it all.

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JofraArchersFastestBall · 19/01/2024 09:26

I was hard working, academically successful etc at high school. I went on to get a PhD in a pointless attempt to impress my parents.

My husband messed about, didn't achieve his true potential, only just scraped the grades to get to uni with last minute revision etc.

We're both happy, hardworking, normal adults. He's been much more successful in his chosen career than me. I think partly because his parents instilled a sense of self confidence that I've never managed to achieve with qualifications.

What I mean is 'success' isn't determined by your gcse grades, and that you can be happy even without being successful in the eyes of the world. Enjoy and encourage the children you have. It's such a cliche, but it's true - comparison is the thief of joy.

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Philippa7 · 19/01/2024 09:26

Blimey OP, tbh I thought you were going to say your children have profound needs which will mean they won’t be able to do a lot of things children usually grow up to do like be independent, have a job, a family etc. There’ll certainly be readers who sadly could only dream of DC like yours who sound like typical teens/pre teens.

I was the child you want yours to be but at what cost? I was quite a troubled young person and still was well into adulthood: I’ve struggled with perfectionism and a toxically unhealthy work-life balance my entire working life so far, undiagnosed OCD I’m sure, crippling anxiety, poor body image where I’m not happy unless I’m my “ideal weight”, depression caused by the extreme expectations I put on myself… Honestly, I’d need to spend thousands and thousands on therapy to unpick all of it and I feel it’s very much part of who I am now anyway.

I’m determined for my own DC to be so much happier and I’m conscious about the role I play in that and the foundations we set as parents through our parenting and messaging every single day. Children and young people are little sponges and surprisingly perceptive as you’ll know.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

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Oblomov23 · 19/01/2024 09:27

Be grateful that they are lovely and well rounded. I myself only do what needs to be done. I'm extremely organised and batch cook etc, keep on top of things, but I only do what needs to be done to get by. I can't be bothered doing any extra. Ds1 is very driven. Ds2 is Uber relaxed and only does the bare minimum. I'm happy he's so confident in himself.

Be happy, grateful. Sometimes something happens that puts things into perspective. My closest friend can't see me anymore because her youngest has had a massive MH breakdown and barely left the house for the last year. This makes me appreciate how lucky I am that my ds2 is do content and happy.

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Namechangenamechange321 · 19/01/2024 09:27

aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 08:50

@WhenWereYouUnderMe They do, but I've never seen them be on them for hours like our kids and most of our other friends.

OP, don’t you have part of your answer here? Your kids are allowed to be on their devices for hours and maybe these other children you’re comparing to aren’t. Also, why are you only comparing your children unfavourably to this one family who you’ve decided is better? What about allthe ways in which your kids are ‘better’ by these standards?
Although I don’t think comparison is helpful anyway. Your children sound great, and as a pp said, in the big bad world what are the skills they’re learning now that are most important? Maybe how to have fun and enjoy life being balanced with decent academics, rather than just how to strive strive strive and be unhappy?

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