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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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BrieAndChilli · 19/01/2024 09:52

I have a DS who is in year 12. really really clever - is part of a welsh project for the top learners in each school - gets to go to oxford/online lectures/help with uni applications. Just had a letter to say he has been invited to apply for a summer school (3-5 days) at either cambridge or oxford. He doesn't want to go.
He cant give us a reason why just that he doesnt want to. He does have ASD so doesnt really like too much social interaction but is very high functioning. I just feel sad that he is being given these amazing opportunites that will look great on his UCAS application but wont do them.

DD on the other hand throws herself into everything with gusto and although she is smart she is not in the very top so wont get the same above opportunities.

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Octavia64 · 19/01/2024 09:53

I am prepared to bet you a large amount of money that your friends kids are not ALWAYS polite.

A lot of kids are incredibly polite in public and with adults but not so to their parents.

Get chatting to their parents over a glass of wine or a coffee and you'll hear the real story.

Don't mistake someone else's outside for your inside.

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PurpleBrain · 19/01/2024 09:54

@IceWhites

What is a just above council house ? Is it a ex Council house Privately owned ?

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Menstrualcycledisplayteam · 19/01/2024 09:54

OP, I'm sorry you're getting a hard time, but I could have written your post. I'm from a low income background, as is my husband. We've both worked bloody hard throughout our lives, both first in our families into the professions and that hard work (and luck) has meant that we can now send our son to private school - where he does the absolute bare minimum he can. It drives me crackers; I feel like I've paved his way through and made it as easy as possible for him to achieve and it drives me crazy when he just won't push himself. But the reality is you need a bit of struggle, don't you, to really build resilience and grit and mine hasn't experienced it because he's had us smoothing his path. But I get it and I sympathise - I've just had to try (really, really hard) to relax and push him to both our levels of tolerance

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cloudyday18jan · 19/01/2024 09:56

I know what you mean. My kids are ND and don't do a lot of the things I thought I'd do with my kids - they are only interested in their own narrow range of interests. They don't have playdates or hobbies like music or sport.

But, they go to mainstream school, they manage their own personal hygiene, they talk - a lot of parents of autistic kids have bigger challenges than I do. I try to remember that. I know that's not the issue here but things could always be "better"/easier yes but they could also be harder.

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feathermucker · 19/01/2024 09:58

Love your children for who they are, not what you would like them to be.

They will know you feel like this because it's obvious from your post how much it bothers you.

How many years have you wasted comparing your children to others?

Comparison is the thief of joy and I'm sure you could get a lot more joy from your children by simply accepting them for who they are.

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ladygindiva · 19/01/2024 09:58

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.

I have to agree with this. Op, I was your kids and my mum was you . I spent my teens self harming ( cutting myself with razors) and developed a serious eating disorder and low self esteem.

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Zoraflora · 19/01/2024 09:59

Your friends kids sound like robots. You dont know what goes on behind closed doors in their home and what pressure they are under and how this will affect them as the become adults.

Your children sound like they are doing fine and have a good balance. Accept and love them for the individuals that they are and stop comparing them to someone else.

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NoCloudsAllowed · 19/01/2024 10:06

I wonder if your kids know you want more from them, but that makes them not want to try because they want autonomy/are worried they wouldn't meet your standards so it's better not to try and fail.

Starting point is loving them and spending time with them and having fun. Honestly, if god forbid one of them went under a bus tomorrow, you'd regret every second you spent worrying about this.

Then I think it's more about sharing in their experience - how can you get interested in things together, what goals do they have, what do things look like for them. Work with how they are now, rather than comparing and thinking they should be at point B already.

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AgnesX · 19/01/2024 10:06

loadedchips · 19/01/2024 08:52

Comparison is the thief of joy

This.

Comparing your children to others is a nasty thing to do. It's projecting on your own insecurities..

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Usernamen · 19/01/2024 10:07

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but do you think seeing both parents work hard and excel at their careers makes a difference? What kind of message do you think your dropping to part-time during school term right the way through to their secondary school years (which is very part-time indeed) gives your children? Is one of your children a girl? Have you considered what kind of role model you are to her?

When I was in school I was in awe of a couple of my friends’ mothers who had very successful careers and this spurred me on to work hard. I imagine if that kind of role model is closer to home (ie one’s own mother), the effect is even stronger.

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Jl2014 · 19/01/2024 10:08

OP, if your kids are still doing well and are happy that is the main thing. Comparisons are pointless when you don’t know what awaits and you certainly don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.

Slow and steady wins the race. The kids who want to go for the prizes often end up with more anxiety around fear of failure and can struggle when things aren’t perfect. Have faith in yours, encourage them without comparing. Let them do a bit of what they enjoy too. They don’t need to be doing politics and debating clubs to have bright futures.

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LoisSanger · 19/01/2024 10:09

My Dd is a perfectionist. I wish she weren’t as then maybe she would be happier. If you’re always striving for the next thing then you’re never going to get there. Your DC sound much healthier.

My DD got 8 x 9 at GCSE and 3 x 8. Yet in her eyes she was disappointed. Which is ridiculous but it’s how she felt.

Enjoy your DC for who they are not who you feel they should be.

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NoCloudsAllowed · 19/01/2024 10:11

I think at the heart of it is - what does success mean?

If your kids become high flyers but are nervous wrecks, is that success? If they're happy and stable, in good relationships etc but never earn much, is that failure? If they're globe trotters who never have much money but have loads of interesting experiences, is that failure?

The ideal you probably have is hardworking kids who do well in school and uni, get good jobs, have a family etc. You'd probably end up not seeing them much! If they're happy, that's good - but what makes them happy might not be what you envisaged for them.

I went to a good uni, have lots of friends at the top of the career tree etc - honestly I'm not sure if they're happier than the schoolfriend who dropped out at 16 to work in the family business.

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AncientBallerina · 19/01/2024 10:12

You remind me of my mum. Constantly telling us about all the other successful children with all their accomplishments. I have terrible imposter syndrome even though I have good degrees including a PhD. But I was the ‘bottom of the cream’ apparently.
Let them be themselves and focus on supporting them and continuing to build the good relationship you seem to have with them. You have no idea what the teenage years will bring for you and the seemingly perfect family (who knows what’s going on behind closed doors there?)
Your children’s job is not to reflect well on you. Your job is to make sure that they are happy and secure in themselves and yes to support them to reach their potential if that is what they want.

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Waitingfortulips · 19/01/2024 10:13

My boys are both like that. They were big, lazy fish in a small pond in secondary school. They sometimes won prizes by accident and it didn’t matter much to them.

It has forced me to consider my own biases/values. Why is achievement so important to me? Does it make me happier? Am I better off? No. The answer to both is no.

I have happy kids who have good friendships, are healthy, and will do just fine in uni and hopefully beyond. They have balance. I admire it - but it has taken time.

They are super smart, very capable, it is all worn very lightly, and mostly I admire it. But it’s a work in progress because their values are a bit different than mine, and theirs are healthier.

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ISpyNoPlumPie · 19/01/2024 10:13

Usernamen · 19/01/2024 10:07

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but do you think seeing both parents work hard and excel at their careers makes a difference? What kind of message do you think your dropping to part-time during school term right the way through to their secondary school years (which is very part-time indeed) gives your children? Is one of your children a girl? Have you considered what kind of role model you are to her?

When I was in school I was in awe of a couple of my friends’ mothers who had very successful careers and this spurred me on to work hard. I imagine if that kind of role model is closer to home (ie one’s own mother), the effect is even stronger.

Can you work part time AND have a successful career? And can you use some of your free time to excel at activities outside of your professional sphere? Would that be good role modelling?

It’s not that your opinion might be unpopular but that having a successful career and working part time might not be mutually exclusive. I’d argue that you’ve created a false dichotomy there.

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Caerulea · 19/01/2024 10:14

What kind of message do you think your dropping to part-time during school term right the way through to their secondary school years (which is very part-time indeed) gives your children?

That they matter? That they are important & supported? That they come first? That you have chosen to be there when they get home from school? That having kids means sacrifice?

I dunno, it says lots of things and none of them are bad.

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Mythnames · 19/01/2024 10:14

I genuinely think they will be much happier as adults if they aren’t constantly comparing themselves to others and striving to be ‘the best’ …

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pushbaum · 19/01/2024 10:20

What am I doing wrong?
What you're doing wrong is comparing your children to others, and believing that external markers of 'success' are of huge significance. They may be independent minded and not see the point of trying to absolutely conform to the education system. In a way, good for them - knowing just how much effort to put in is a skill in itself. When there's something they love or want they may surprise you. Meanwhile, you will undermine them if you're obviously comparing them to others so do try to dial it down!

I also think that maybe reiterating that they're as bright as the high achieving kids is a rocky road - brightness and intelligence can be manifest in so many different ways.

I think the fact you worked part time is interesting - when your kids are old enough, I would encourage that - real life experience rather than following a specific system might be what they need to see what work means in another area outside school.

For context, one of my dcs is autistic, is gifted in some areas and just doesn't 'get it' in others and finds it almost painful to study hard for subjects they aren't interested in. For them to even get through the day in school is a total struggle so I couldn't be prouder of how brave they are and how much they try.

Another one works so so hard, is involved in everything but is actually burnt out from trying to live up to the (very academic) school's expectations of him. He is involved in everything - sports, music, debating but we've had to do what we can to lessen the stress as he puts himself under such pressure to excel. I'd much rather he was laid back and not so enamoured of being top of the class, captain of the team etc.

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Stupidliefromfriend · 19/01/2024 10:20

I don't think I've ever had such a strong reaction of disgust to any OP I've read here. Stop comparing them to other kids, stop expecting your own desires to be theirs, start loving and celebrating them for the amazing people they are in their own rights. Continue on as you are at your peril - and don't waste your time when they're older and have rejected you wondering why. It's perfectly obvious why.

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Savourycrepe · 19/01/2024 10:25

Usernamen · 19/01/2024 10:07

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but do you think seeing both parents work hard and excel at their careers makes a difference? What kind of message do you think your dropping to part-time during school term right the way through to their secondary school years (which is very part-time indeed) gives your children? Is one of your children a girl? Have you considered what kind of role model you are to her?

When I was in school I was in awe of a couple of my friends’ mothers who had very successful careers and this spurred me on to work hard. I imagine if that kind of role model is closer to home (ie one’s own mother), the effect is even stronger.

Conversely, my friend who had two very successful full-time working parents became a SAHM. Although she appreciated her parents success, she wanted more time with her kids.

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LittleBrownBaby · 19/01/2024 10:26

Help your children to be happy in their own skin, kind, and content. It's far more important than having their shirts tucked in and thriving academically. I see so many children with mental health issues because of the pressures to succeed or even just "fit". If you want them to be anything, want them to be happy.

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Pinkpinkplonk · 19/01/2024 10:27

A very wise parson once told me.

” If you're always the best, the expectations are too high. Then the only way is down “

You wouldn’t want that for anyone, let alone your lovely kids, who sound like they’re doing just great. Can they emotionally regulate, have fun, relax as well as work hard? Then you’re doing a great job. The teenage years can be tough, without kids feeling like they’re not good enough for their parents!

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viques · 19/01/2024 10:30

Do you also unfavourably compare your kids height, their hair styles, their eye colour, their singing voice, their dance moves? Of course you don’t, because comparison is the theft of joy. Love your kids for who they are and for the joy they bring to your life.

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