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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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You are being unreasonable
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You are NOT being unreasonable
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Katiesaidthat · 19/01/2024 11:04

Hmmm, your kids sound normal to me. Never ever lose their temper or say anything out of turn? Has your friend lobotomised her kids? I think that is weird. Also, you have to take personalities into account. My brother was super calm almost always, I was more expressive. Debate after school? Cant think of anything worse? All this competitiveness. The mom of a schoolmate of mine was like that. My mum and I used to imitate her (the mother) behind her back. And yes, my mate, 30 years on is very very low contact with her mother...

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Hotpinkangel19 · 19/01/2024 11:04

I can't think of anything worse than a child who wants to join a debating and politics club. I'd be thankful for the children you have!

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pinkstripeycat · 19/01/2024 11:05

Your kids sound like my eldest.

It’s their life, they have to learn the hard way. You can encourage them so far and then have to leave them to it. That’s something I have only just realised.

I’ve been encouraging DS18 for years which he didn’t appreciate or pay attention to and it’s only just dawned on him this week that his future is in his hands.

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Boomer55 · 19/01/2024 11:07

Your kids sound balanced and happy. I’d be concerned if I had perfect kids!

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Jf20 · 19/01/2024 11:09

This is disgusting, you want to compete and show off via your kids. You look at other peoples kids and feel jealous, and side eye your own wishing they were like that. I’m fairly sure fhey side eyeing the other mothers wishing you were like that. Happy, supportive.

I just can’t get over what you actually posted. It’s horrible.

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Newtoniannechanics · 19/01/2024 11:09

For context, the other family have a couple of teacher grandparents (on either side), including a secondary teacher in STEM,

I am a teacher with an ASD child who can't attend school age 15. Failing all GCSES has vaped and worse. Your kids sound pretty cool op.

I do get upset. I would get upset looking at your kids. The unfairness of it all. Then I pull myself together.

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pushbaum · 19/01/2024 11:10

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.

This and others being so rude about the high-achieving kids are falling into the same trap as the OP in terms of comparisons. It's not a zero sum game - the high achievers are clearly more motivated to do well, it doesn't make them freakish or 'robots' or any of the other nasty things people have called them. Every family is different, every person is different.

OP, hopefully if your DCs have ambitions at some stage for something they need to work hard for, a stronger work ethic will kick in. Meanwhile, you can set up some circumstances that encourage more personal responsibility and life skills in general and maybe be a bit stricter instead of wishing they were different - if you're annoyed they're on their phones so much then put limits on it, and maybe avoid TV during the week. Make sure they have lots of responsibility at home, that they learn how to cook and generally help out. If you're always available in the evenings and do a lot of domestic work for them then be sure they share in that. If you want to encourage them to be more academic, maybe you should do an academic-focussed evening course so you can model learning for them?

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Naptrappedmummy · 19/01/2024 11:11

others being so rude about the high-achieving kids are falling into the same trap as the OP in terms of comparisons. It's not a zero sum game - the high achievers are clearly more motivated to do well, it doesn't make them freakish or 'robots' or any of the other nasty things people have called them. Every family is different, every person is different.

It’s jealousy.

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maudelovesharold · 19/01/2024 11:14

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!)

This sounds a bit ‘Stepford Wives’ though! You have no idea what their life is like behind closed doors at home. They might be feeling enormous pressure to be a certain way, to conform to the expectations of their family. They might be longing to have the freedom to just be themselves. Enjoy the children you have, rather than comparing them to others. Children who appear to be more ‘driven’ aren’t always the happiest.

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cornflower21 · 19/01/2024 11:18

Your post is very self absorbed and one sided- it's very damaging to the children self esteem- there's a lot of people dealing with those issues for rest of their lives. They feel they're never good enough, they become people pleasers, their confidence is damaged.

Try opposite approach- how do you think your children see your attitude towards them...

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yikesanotherbooboo · 19/01/2024 11:20

You need to cherish your children for whom they are ; not for whom you think they should be or would like them to be. It is really important that you do not let your children think that you are disappointed in them because they have their own talents and not those of yourself or your friend's children. Reframe your thinking.

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pushbaum · 19/01/2024 11:21

Naptrappedmummy · 19/01/2024 11:11

others being so rude about the high-achieving kids are falling into the same trap as the OP in terms of comparisons. It's not a zero sum game - the high achievers are clearly more motivated to do well, it doesn't make them freakish or 'robots' or any of the other nasty things people have called them. Every family is different, every person is different.

It’s jealousy.

Honestly, people are so horrible. Sneering at kids and almost hoping they're unhappy / trying to make the OP feel better by encouraging her to think negatively about other kids who haven't done anything wrong is so base and stupid.

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TiaSeeya · 19/01/2024 11:24

“I've not had to whip out my clarinet in a board meeting yet.”

😂😂😂😂

All that matters, ALL that matters, is that your kids are happy & healthy and go on to live happy contented independent lives whilst maintaining a great relationship with you.

I have a few friends with “perfect” kids. Think A*s all the way, G8 music, county sport etc. There is something with each of the kids though. And I only know this as I know them really, really well. Don’t wish for something else, things are never what they seem.

Id recommend reading some Philippa Perry who articulates so well what it takes to maintain relationships with your children, right through to adult to adult relationships.

Your children aren’t your vehicle for success. They are their own people that you hopefully will have a wonderful relationship with as they grow into fabulous independent adults.

Comparisons are not only odious but usually very ill informed.

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Naptrappedmummy · 19/01/2024 11:24

pushbaum · 19/01/2024 11:21

Honestly, people are so horrible. Sneering at kids and almost hoping they're unhappy / trying to make the OP feel better by encouraging her to think negatively about other kids who haven't done anything wrong is so base and stupid.

Yep. And it’s hilarious they think kids that are polite, organised and have hobbies are somehow mentally unwell. That’s far more the case in kids who spend all day gaming and have no routine, if you read what’s written on here.

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Ladyj84 · 19/01/2024 11:26

Maybe you need to figure out new things to do with your teen. Ours we do everything cooking together, sitting chatting in a night once the young ones are in bed, films at weekends,walks etc. They only learn things can be fun if you teach them. I would never compare any of ours to anyone else's I'm proud of every single one from the brainbox to the plodder. There doing what there capable of and that's fine with me.

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FarmGirl78 · 19/01/2024 11:26

I'm 45.

I was "the other kids" you talk about. I always did everything extra, went the extra mile, did extra optional chapters on school projects etc etc. I enjoyed learned but only 50% of this extra effort was natural thirst for knowledge due to me, the other 50% was (likely not realised by anyone outside my immediate family) due to overly being forced into it, sheer terror of letting my parents down, and not being good enough to keep up with their ridiculously high expectations. They loved me very much, treated me decently, but looking perfect to others was all I knew. My whole world revolved around academic success, results, good manners, possible career prospects, job salaries etc etc. There was never any talk or encouragement to understand people, how to show empathy, sympathy, or social understanding of others or encouraging me to relate to others, how to be part of a community etc.

I've been those other kids and I have massive self esteem problem, massive imposter syndrome. So I'm 45 and I've had anxiety since I can ever remember, always dreading school results, not being good enough, letting myself down, not achieving things or others thinking I'm a failure. Even in my job now, after a 25 year medical career, I feel sick at even the word "appraisal". I never got to have children, which I would dearly have loved -all because I stupidly spent far too long trying to achieve success that can be measured by others. I've spent years and years in counselling and therapy and I'm STILL scared of appearing inferior to my own self imposed impossibly high standards. I've accidentally spent most of my life this way because I was so indoctrinated that this was paramount above all else.

Your post makes me so sad that not one sentence in it relates to how happy, secure, self confident, kind or caring your children are. Whether they have any self esteem. Whether they are content in who they are. Whether they feel valued or enough. Whether they like themselves. Acaedemic success is an absolute waste of time if those other things aren't there. Please please take your blinkers off and focus on what really matters. Your children are far more than an exam results sheet.

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User14March · 19/01/2024 11:32

I know a mother who believed you had to really push in primary. She didn’t let up. Round the clock tutoring for already bright kids. She felt her Mum/parents hadn’t pushed her enough & she’d under achieved. She has ££ & the goal was Ivy League from get go. She wanted to instil work ethic & gave them a niche strength/advantage by pushing something specific.

Her view was no normal primary kid would want to do more than the bare minimum. So pushing very necessary.

In secondary she encouraged social stuff & the kids were well rounded. She didn’t push much, she didn’t need to. Her mission was accomplished & top Unis followed. Kids are impressive, have individual passions etc. There’s no ‘right’ way I guess.

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Rangelife · 19/01/2024 11:32

I think the crux of the issue, both towards your own DC and the DC of the other family is that you see children as an extension of their parents and families.

All these children are individuals in their own rights. It is not a parents job to curate or manage their children as if they are a project, to fulfil their ego and sense of self. These are humans who didn't ask to be born and it's disrespectful to treat them as some pet project whose end game is to massage your ego. I feel like you are getting in the way of yourself OP, look inwards not outwards. Trying to get others to fulfil your needs is never going to work.

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FarmGirl78 · 19/01/2024 11:33

Ah, ok, so I've read all your posts now and I'm so glad you do spend fun times with kids and value them being funny etc. But what I said still stand..... Being the "other kids" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Not by a long shot.

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Brightandbubly · 19/01/2024 11:34

I hope you’re not transferring this onto your children it will do them no favours.
Be grateful

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ISpyNoPlumPie · 19/01/2024 11:34

Rangelife · 19/01/2024 11:32

I think the crux of the issue, both towards your own DC and the DC of the other family is that you see children as an extension of their parents and families.

All these children are individuals in their own rights. It is not a parents job to curate or manage their children as if they are a project, to fulfil their ego and sense of self. These are humans who didn't ask to be born and it's disrespectful to treat them as some pet project whose end game is to massage your ego. I feel like you are getting in the way of yourself OP, look inwards not outwards. Trying to get others to fulfil your needs is never going to work.

Yes yes yes. Do you even care what your children want? Or is what you want for them more important?

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LakeWoebegon · 19/01/2024 11:35

I love your kids. They sound great.

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BlubberMeHearties · 19/01/2024 11:35

I thi k your kids will come into their own. You just have to wait,one day they will be motivated. I think the children you are comparing yours too might be a bit like drones. Do you want a yes sir no sir child, or an individual with their own thoughts and motivations.

Try not to worry.

As mine are getting older they are finding their motivation to do things.

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Mayhemmumma · 19/01/2024 11:36

Comparison is the thief of you and you have so much to be joyful about- focus on that and you never know the example you want might follow. Don't drag them down.

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TonTonMacoute · 19/01/2024 11:37

Careful what you wish for. That high achieving as kids doesn't always end well.

Your DCs are their own people, when something grabs their attention they will get their act together.

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