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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).

OP posts:
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Am I being unreasonable?

1240 votes. Final results.

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AmyandPhilipfan · 19/01/2024 09:28

In the nicest possible way, you need to think about the fact that you have two healthy children who will be able to lead independent lives. A lot of people don't have that privilege - their children have illnesses or disabilities, or have died. In the grand scheme of things the fact that yours might not work hard enough to get Level 9s across the board at GCSE does not matter one bit.

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Justkoko · 19/01/2024 09:28
  1. Comparison is the thief of joy


  1. Sounds like you have great children!
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AliceA2021 · 19/01/2024 09:31

They sound lovely.

Find something else you can brag about. Poor kids, let them be.

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dottiedodah · 19/01/2024 09:31

Never compare .Yours sound like they are doing OK TBH. Whats the deal? As an old friend said once "theres always going to be someone on 100k ,and its never going to be you!" (I know on here some earn that)! Pressure like this is not good.In part of course DC are like their DP as well! Focus on their good points and relax

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MsFrog · 19/01/2024 09:32

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 would think about why you think it's so important for people to always strive to do their best, rather than striving to be happy.

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AliceA2021 · 19/01/2024 09:32

AmyandPhilipfan · 19/01/2024 09:28

In the nicest possible way, you need to think about the fact that you have two healthy children who will be able to lead independent lives. A lot of people don't have that privilege - their children have illnesses or disabilities, or have died. In the grand scheme of things the fact that yours might not work hard enough to get Level 9s across the board at GCSE does not matter one bit.

Indeed.

Illness in children.

Profound disability or even milder disabilities.

You are so luck OP even though you don't appreciate that.

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RoachFish · 19/01/2024 09:35

I have done reasonably well in life but I was the laziest student in my teens. Luckily I had parents who made sure I felt valued regardless and that foundation has helped me feel secure and good enough for the rest of my life. Had they been academically pushy I am sure that would have caused us to have a very strained relationship.

just appreciate the lovely kids you have, don’t make them feel like they aren’t good enough.

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Makeupalley · 19/01/2024 09:36
  1. Alot of people don't share the ins and outs of their family. However close you are you, still get the sanitised version. For example, my son, 13, is a high achieving polite boy with lots of friends. He is also awful at emotional regulation at home, has major outbursts and we've seen a private psychologist to help him. Other than a couple of friends I've told (who incidently are not part of the school mums crowd) I haven't told anyone. My son doesn't want anyone from school to know and I agree.


2) some kids just thrive in school. But then some peak there. My dh and I didn't go to fancy schools and, aside from my DH playing grass roots football, had no noteworthy hobbies. No debate team, county sport or instrument between us. My dh in particular admits he did the bare minimum to scrape by. We both have great careers, me in marketing and him in finance (he earns nearly 200,000 a year, and i earn 60k part time) - we are both motivated in the workplace and by 'real work' and.. (yes) money.

I think you need to stop comparing and focus on the great kids you have. Then look back in 20 years and see how everyone has fared. It might not be the 'perfect' kids who thrive as adults (depending on your definition of success... of course happiness is important too)
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ru53 · 19/01/2024 09:36

You will damage your relationship with your children if you carry on like this. Why do they need to be doing better? They sound like they are doing very well and most importantly are happy. Comparison is the thief of joy. I was a straight A student, worked very hard and plagued by anxiety and perfectionism. I’m doing alright now but definitely out earned by people who just did ok at school. School is not everything. Doing debate club at school is going to make zero material impact to their lives, particularly if they’re not interested in it. Let them be kids.

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HeBeaverandSheBeaver · 19/01/2024 09:37

Maybe they are riled with a rod of iron
Maybe they are just placid
Maybe they will be walked over people pleasers when adult.
Maybe it's all Insta moments

They sound really boring tbh.

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Letspretendweareallcool · 19/01/2024 09:37

As a parent with a lazy teen, who 'could do better', it isn't that you don't appreciate what you have, it's the opposite.
You see very clearly where a can't be arsed attitude will lead and feel angry at the possible waste of potential.

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CharlotteBog · 19/01/2024 09:39

What am I doing wrong?

Nothing. Please take a step back and stop comparing your children with others, otherwise you really will have problems.

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awaynboilyurheid · 19/01/2024 09:42

As a mother with older children I’ve seen some of their high achieving friends at school not do what was expected afterwards at all, and I mean the very brightest in high school from the kind of family you describe . Please be happy if your children are doing well educationally and happy and turn your attention on something else. Stop giving yourself a hard time, focus on fun times with them and staying involved, don’t concern yourselves with others.

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hydriotaphia · 19/01/2024 09:43

-Perfectionism can hold many people back from trying - ie they are scared of trying their hardest and failing. Make sure your perfectionism isn't holding your kids back.
-Love your kids for themselves, not their achievements.
-I don't think the comments saying that the friends' kids sound abnormal or are liable to go off the rails are helpful. From the description sounds like they are doing great. Working hard, consistent application, and needing less downtime do get you very far in life. But big deal, there will always be someone brighter or harder working or more successful - you've got to love your kids for who they are.

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YetAnotherSpartacus · 19/01/2024 09:44

Help them discover their passions. This will drive their will to explore, delve deep and 'succeed'. But it has to be on their terms.

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27Mankinis · 19/01/2024 09:44

Makeupalley · 19/01/2024 09:36

  1. Alot of people don't share the ins and outs of their family. However close you are you, still get the sanitised version. For example, my son, 13, is a high achieving polite boy with lots of friends. He is also awful at emotional regulation at home, has major outbursts and we've seen a private psychologist to help him. Other than a couple of friends I've told (who incidently are not part of the school mums crowd) I haven't told anyone. My son doesn't want anyone from school to know and I agree.


2) some kids just thrive in school. But then some peak there. My dh and I didn't go to fancy schools and, aside from my DH playing grass roots football, had no noteworthy hobbies. No debate team, county sport or instrument between us. My dh in particular admits he did the bare minimum to scrape by. We both have great careers, me in marketing and him in finance (he earns nearly 200,000 a year, and i earn 60k part time) - we are both motivated in the workplace and by 'real work' and.. (yes) money.

I think you need to stop comparing and focus on the great kids you have. Then look back in 20 years and see how everyone has fared. It might not be the 'perfect' kids who thrive as adults (depending on your definition of success... of course happiness is important too)

On your second point about kids peaking.

There is a boy at my DCs school who is quite unbelievably talented at a particular sport. He is elite level already at 14. The school showcases him big time and sometimes my younger DC gets upset about it because he also does the sport at a very very junior level and he is jealous.

personally- I worry about this kid a bit. His life has been mapped out in advance for him. I know that behind the scenes is a very driven and status conscious father. He is getting so much attention for his success. I worry he is being pushed to an eventual breaking point and when eventually he does fail at something what that will do to his self esteem, to his overall life really.

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sharptoothlemonshark · 19/01/2024 09:44

I like your kids more

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Mumgineer · 19/01/2024 09:49

Hi Op, like another poster above, I grew up with a parent like you. I could come home with a B in Maths and he’d ask why I didn’t get an A. I was never thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough. Sometimes he didn’t even say anything but it was written all over his face. Every gift I picked out for him wasn’t good enough. He criticised any meal I ever made him. I’m in my 40s and it still affects me. It has shaped who I am my whole life.

you need to learn to accept your kids for who they are and just gently encourage them through praise to push themselves a little harder. If my dad had said “oh wow, a B, that’s great!! Well done! You might even get an A next time” I wouldn’t have felt like a failure my whole life!

comparison is the thief of joy

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coucoululu · 19/01/2024 09:49

OP, you are probably a wonderful mum and your children sound like children! ie. They sound exactly like they should be.

The way you describe your friends, sounds like, I imagine what people might have thought about my mum and her children when we were growing up. My mum was so strict, we were always well behaved, dressed well etc. It was boring and we had no fun. We were scared of our mum and we would worry about what the journey home from anywhere would look like because inevitably she would turn around from her seat in the car to tell us off in the back about some minor slip up one of us would have made.

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Caerulea · 19/01/2024 09:49

I'm going to go out on a limb here & guess that you spend far more time with your kids than The Other Families. The overachievers I know, the ones at all the extra curricular stuff, relentless clubs, no time for anything else, are the ones whose parents aren't around much & put them into all the clubs rather than the kids choosing to do them. 'cos that's what children should do!'

The kids are just desperate to impress/please the parents cos they don't have much of a relationship with them 🤷🏼‍♀️. They are like little robots until the levee breaks & they go wild.

Which do you think your kids would rather?

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PurpleBrain · 19/01/2024 09:50

So these kids are Swots? You have to have get up and go , charm and personality and to spot opportunities to succeed in life too.
Maybe these perfect kids lack that . You will get people leaving Uni with identical degrees in the same subject but some of those kids will excel over the others because they have more of the characteristics I've mentioned. As long as your kids are healthy, happy and keeping their noses clean that's all that really matters .

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IceWhites · 19/01/2024 09:50

I don’t think it necessarily means anything OP. My two siblings and I came from a just above council house- our parents were young parents and used to fight a lot. We were so poor at points our neighbours had to chip in to buy us food. We had zero extra curricular activities. We were scruffy and definitely didn’t go the extra mile.We were never disciplined but we all are clever.

All three of us passed our 11 plus, now I’m marketing director at a university, one brother is a doctor and the other is a lawyer! We all have degrees and masters! And none of us have ever done anything extra curricular! If they’re intelligent it’ll trickle through!

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ISpyNoPlumPie · 19/01/2024 09:51

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...

“How do you teach your children to ALWAYS want to strive and do your BEST”

Why THE FUCK would you want to teach your children that? What is BEST? What will be enough for you? What does striving look like? Why do you care more about what your kids look like to other people than teaching them that they have inherent value just in being themselves? Why do you want to damage your relationship with them and their self esteem so that you look good by reflection?

What are you doing wrong? Your belief about what is constitutes a good life is toxic. You know - you could just look a your kids and think “you are whole and worthy, you don’t need to be anything other than yourself”. Imagine!

I remember once my daughter asked me “mum would you be proud of me if I could do x?”. I told her that my love for her was not conditional on anything. I wasn’t brought up like this but I decided I didn’t want to raise miserable balls of anxiety.

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willWillSmithsmith · 19/01/2024 09:51

Mine were the same. Both very bright but put the minimum effort in to everything and weren’t interested in applying themselves to any sport or clubs etc. I never really worried about it (to be honest I didn’t want to be the parent that has to get up at 5am for one of them to go to swimming club before school or be at a football/rugby pitch every weekend).

Fast forward a few years and they’re both doing really well. One graduating and one off to uni this year. Both self taught a musical instrument and one learning a language off his own bat. They do what they want to do in their own time.

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CarterBeatsTheDevil · 19/01/2024 09:52

I was one of the "perfect" kids you're describing. I was burnt out by other people's demands and my own perfectionism by my late 30s. Only learned how to embrace "good enough" over "perfect" as a reasonable standard of achievement in my 40s. I have a very bright little girl but I wouldn't want that for her. Your kids sound all right to me.

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