Ask an Expert – Teen feels like failure next to high-achieving friends

My teen feels like a failure next to high-achieving friends

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As a parent I have often despaired that I have sent my daughter to a school which appears to value academic achievement above all else. How do I support a child who, although bright, constantly feels like a failure because she doesn’t rate herself as highly as the kids who are lauded for getting As?

That’s a tough situation to be in! As teenagers, we never grasp just how much our parents have done for us, and I have no doubt that in a few years, she’ll look back and thank you for sending her to a school that sounds as though it has children excel – she’s going to pick up so many skills there that will only become obvious later. Don’t despair; she really will thank you down the track!

For now, there are two things you can do. First, have a look at the other things she loves. I’m sure she’s excellent at something else. Is she a dancer, swimmer, writer, baker, artist? If there is something she loves to do, encourage her to really explore it more. I currently work with a year 8 boy who gets average results at school, but goes to class with children who are pushed to be making As all the time. It was getting him down until he entered a movie-making competition – he poured his heart into it, won a prize, and hasn’t been anywhere near as interested in other kids’ academic results since.

Secondly, having a longer-term goal can really help. Marks are completely arbitrary unless they can be used for something. I can’t tell how old your daughter is from the question, but for a lot of the children we work with, having a goal to work towards makes all the difference. Trust me, a child is much less interested in getting an A when they know they want to be a zoologist, or a drama teacher, or do business studies, and it turns out that they need Bs, some biology and no maths in the HSC (or whatever it is for them!). Getting the focus onto a long-term goal gives them a more objective way to look at success – and completely removes the need to compare their grade to their friend who happens to want to be a surgeon.

Kate Edney, Managing Director of Confidence Boost Tutoring,



Our Ask an Expert Week panelists are all qualified professionals in their field. However, advice given on The Kids Are All Right website is not a substitute for direct, personal, professional counselling or psychological care, medical care and diagnosis.


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