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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.

POLL
You are being unreasonable
90%
You are NOT being unreasonable
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MorningSunshineSparkles · 19/01/2024 10:31

This is a spoof?

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AbbeFausseMaigre · 19/01/2024 10:34

OP, I think this is a really important post, and your feelings are worthy of unpacking properly, not being dismissed as petty jealousy or competitiveness.

We are in a very similar situation. DH and I are both naturally intelligent and academic high achievers. I worked very too hard at school and got perfect grades all the way through. DH less so, but still worked hard and also played sport at a high level throughout school and university. We were both real self starters and also had part time jobs and basically a lot of get-up-and-go.

We now have three teen/tween DC and the older two (and possibly all three) are exactly like your DC - naturally bright but they just want an easy life, and we both find it hard to watch them coasting when they could "be achieving so much more".

But this is where it gets complicated. I was (am) a perfectionist with major imposter syndrome and this has massively held me back - on paper I should have had a stellar career, but I've actually had a really mediocre one, in roles I'm not even interested in, because I was terrified of failure and cripplingly dependant on on external validation for my sense of self worth.

But despite KNOWING all this - that my mindset is certainly not a blueprint for success or fulfilment - it is the only blueprint I have, and the only apporach I understand, despite trying to look at things differently. So I can't help but measure my children against it.

The other problem is that I don't really understand when letting kids make their own choices and learn from their mistakes crosses into lazy and negligent parenting. It would certainly be a hell of a lot easier to step back and let them sink or swim, but that feels fundamentally wrong. But nagging about school work and revision and encouraging them to aim higher feels like trying to make them like me.

Basically it is all tied up in my own uncertainty and guilt about parenting. If I KNEW that absolutely nothing I could do or say could influence them, then it would be so much easier to step back and enjoy and value them for who they are.

I don't know if any of that makes sense, but I just wanted to say I get it.

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ThePoshUns · 19/01/2024 10:34

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Stop doing so.
You have two happy, healthy children appreciate what you have.

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Vinrouge4 · 19/01/2024 10:38

Some children have a lot more challenges in life than not winning prizes. Maybe you should think about what you do have and not what you don't.

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aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 10:40

@Mumgineer
I'm so sorry, that sounds tough but you sound great.

I'm honestly not over critical like that at all. I will always put happiness first but do find it frustrating when they're procrastinating and not studying, and will definitely question at times why they think they got the grade they got. #

I'm also honest and I have been known to say (in slightly heated moments) 'I wish you would be like so and so and tuck your bloody shirt in'. It does seem like lots of people on here really are perfect, I'm certainly not and have never been a perfectionist. Yes, I did work very hard but planned what I wanted to excel at (things that had utility in terms of career etc) but I can step back in other parts of my life.

I'm not a bragger of my children in public (unless within the family) or on SM. But will celebrate their successes and am always super grateful for any scrappy card or gift I'm given. And I'm very far from being concerned about what other people think of me, and happy to make fool out of myself.

But I am frustrated that they are not reaching their potential but I guess lots of parents feel that way. I'm frustrated that they don't want to do their best for their own sake.

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CroccyWoccy · 19/01/2024 10:40

I have a little bit of sympathy with you OP - I was very motivated at school, excelled at almost everything. Most of my friend’s children seem very bright and are debating which grammar school or private school will suit them best.

My own children are bumbling along very averagely, probably spend too much time on screens and hate homework.

But I accept that comparing them with either myself or with other children is unfair - they are happy, healthy and doing OK.

It’s good to encourage them to be the best that they can be but it has to be the best that they can be, not The Best compared with everyone else.

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IceWhites · 19/01/2024 10:40

PurpleBrain · 19/01/2024 09:54

@IceWhites

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

Sorry didn’t know how to explain. We lived in privately rented ex council house but it was subsidised rent (this was back in the 90’s)

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Borntrippy · 19/01/2024 10:42

Maybe watching tv together every night isn’t the best way to motivate your children. Try chess, cards, drawing etc. And stop comparing, they sound fine and well adjusted which is all any parent can ask for.

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aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 10:44

@AbbeFausseMaigre Yes, yes. This is so true and I think I feel similar. My kids are also very easy going (on the whole), happy and not overly competitive but definitely coasting. The idea of having work ethic and how to instil it is what I've been seeking. But I think you're right about the psychology underlying it all and my 'blueprint' being the way it is, is something I have to accept as my issue maybe.

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CroccyWoccy · 19/01/2024 10:45

@AbbeFausseMaigre

But this is where it gets complicated. I was (am) a perfectionist with major imposter syndrome and this has massively held me back - on paper I should have had a stellar career, but I've actually had a really mediocre one, in roles I'm not even interested in, because I was terrified of failure and cripplingly dependant on on external validation for my sense of self worth.

Oh I feel this very strongly! And it does impact how I parent.

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aseekingseeker · 19/01/2024 10:46

@Borntrippy
slight exaggeration, not exactly every night but we do like to watch things as a family. We do other things too, but mostly around sport. Used to do chess, board games but older teen less inclined nowadays (younger still happy to)...

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TempestTost · 19/01/2024 10:46

I understand OP. I was like your kids, not driven at all, and I do have some regrets about it. My eldest is similar, and I can see that there will be a time when she may wish she spent more effort on certain things.

I think a large portion of this is temperamental. And it isn't necessarily bad - if the world were filled with driven people I suspect it would be worse! Kids as they get older, so long at they have a good example, will usually not be total slobs as adults, will understand the importance of their jobs, and so on.

I do however think there are some things parents can do to encourage the development of a work ethic. Emphasis - praise - work rather than "being smart".Make sure they have real work to do in the home, especially if there is not much school work. My kids babysat from the time they were responsible enough (about 12,) stacked wood, did their own laundry from about age 8. These weren't really negotiable and were not "special" jobs - just part of the necessary elements of living.

I also think limiting gaming, phones and social media, is a big, big one. TV somewhat but not to the same extent. And they can have significant ongoing consequences even when kids are older - these things are basically designed to short-circuit the internal reward for hard work system, and they affect its development.

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27Mankinis · 19/01/2024 10:47

That's a brilliant post @AbbeFausseMaigre

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User14March · 19/01/2024 10:47

@AbbeFausseMaigre I think you hit on something important, there is very little we can do to influence our kids. They are who they are.

At primary the alpha kids had alpha parents, it was genetic. The creatives begat creatives…etc

OP what were you like at school?

Often the schools reward the over involved parent & this can go some way to make you feel as you are, OP.

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JaneyGee · 19/01/2024 10:50

NewYearTimeToChange · 19/01/2024 08:57

I think some kids burn bright when young and achieve little as adults, others are slow burners. If your DC are happy, well rounded and doing ok you need to stop and appreciate this.

This. It's crazy to compare. I've seen many bright, hard-working kids burn out. They reach their late teens and they've had enough. Often, they end up quitting their A-levels or degree and going to work in a gym, or teach scuba diving in Thailand or something – often to get away from their pushy, naggy, humourless, hyper-competitive mother, who used to plaster their achievements all over social media.

The most important thing is that they're happy. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. Also, are they their own person? If they have a kind heart and a sense of humour, are able to socialise and get on with people, and can think for themsleves/have enough strength of character to do their own thing, they'll be OK. They'll find their way.

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Naptrappedmummy · 19/01/2024 10:50

I was like your kids. Intelligent, got very high marks when I actually applied myself. But usually just did the bare minimum and got Bs. Fell in with a group of other lazy children, spent some time drifting after school. Never really settled to any particular subject or career goal.

I wish my parents had encouraged me, to be honest (home was chaos which didn’t help). It’s very hard out there right now (in terms of earning money), it’s not like the good old days where a mediocre clutch of results would land you an averagely paid job and buying a small house was easy.

I don’t blame you for feeling this way. Although I also have no answers about what you should do about it.

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squirrelnutkin10 · 19/01/2024 10:51

Gosh you really need to stop this idea of perfection!! and stop comparing , it is shallow and unkind if your children sense it.

Just be very grateful you have two healthy children who have no health or SEN issues, are well rounded and happy and do reasonably well.

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Growlybear83 · 19/01/2024 10:51

It sounds as though the pressure you seem to be putting on your children to excel, attend a extra curricular activities, and generally be swats is having exactly the opposite effect, as it would with most children their age. You've already said that they are both doing well, so leave them alone and let them be themselves! And for goodness sake don't try to turn them into those dreadful young teens who are immaculately groomed and turned out all the time - encourage them to have some individuality and to dress how they want!

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wouldthatbeworse · 19/01/2024 10:51

My kids are younger but we know a family whose kids are just really really nice. All 3 of them are calm, kind, polite and hard working. As are their parents. Our kids are bright but wilder, messy and pretty rubbish at their pleases and thank yous despite constant modelling and reminders. I don’t have any answers other than you have to parent the kids you have.

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Ffs22 · 19/01/2024 10:52

Your friends kids don’t sound like typical kids to me with no gaming, phones or tv during the week. That sounds like a pretty miserable life for a teenager. I wonder how happy they really are. They’re probably terrified of their parents and doing wrong, which is why you see their excellent behaviour. I knew a family like this who relished on how amazing their kids were- good grades, perfect manners, no staying out late.. the oldest one rebelled and got pregnant at 17.
You need to find a balance, encourage them all you want, but forcing them will only end in regret and resentment.
Are your kids happy, because ultimately that’s all that matters right now.

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Pookerrod · 19/01/2024 10:55

You have raised your kids differently since they were born. That’s why they’re not the same.

The values that your friend and her extended family have instilled in those children since they could walk and talk are different. Not better or worse just different.

You can’t change that now, it’s too late.

Just be thankful that you have happy, healthy kids that do well in school and who are not causing you any grief!

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Vinrouge4 · 19/01/2024 10:56

I wouldn't dismiss the fact that these kids also have hands on grandparents who are teachers. That means a couple of extra adults to help with homework, encourage projects, take kids to activities. Imagine the advantage they had during the lockdown when most parents were trying to work from home and juggle home schooling their kids at the same time.

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starsinthenightskies · 19/01/2024 10:57

I do get it OP, I sometimes feel like this myself. And I grew up with a severely disabled sibling so I do know how unreasonable I’m being and how grateful I should be just to have two healthy children, because my own mum never got to have that.

It’s true what others have said, comparison is the thief of joy. Your kids sound like they’re doing just fine and your friend’s children sound unusual!

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User14March · 19/01/2024 10:59

To add the kids like yours are often more likeable. Being likeable & smart (enough) is what often leads to the very big jobs & opportunities in time.

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PutinSmellsPassItOn · 19/01/2024 10:59

Can guarantee your kids are a lot more emotionally sorted than the ones you're comparing them to.......things will probably pan out very differently when they go off to uni and experience freedom. 😬

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