When a child is overtaken by a younger sibling

As soon as I came in from work today, my daughter grabbed my hand and led me to the kitchen where the Husband was cooking tea.

‘Mummy and Daddy, I have something very important to tell you! I did reading in school today and my teacher moved me up TWO reading stages! She said I was a reading superstar!’

This is such lovely news for my daughter, who has developed a real love of reading over the  last few months, and who has been trying very hard with her books, and at school generally. I’m so proud of her, and so happy to see her so proud of herself – she really deserves it.

I just wish my delight for her wasn’t tempered with the worry for what this will mean for my biggest boy’s confidence – because she’s basically leapfrogged him. He’s been stuck on the same reading stage since June, despite doing a huge amount of reading over the Summer holidays, and now he’s a stage behind his younger sister – who is two years below him at school. Seeing his face crumple as she bounced around the kitchen was just heartbreaking. All the more so because although she has worked hard, he has without doubt put a lot more time into practising his reading.

We’ve obviously had a family chat this evening about how some people are good at some things, and some at others, and that’s the way things should be because we can’t have a world filled with engineers but nobody to be a pilot, or super duper rugby players but nobody to be a teacher, etc etc. But despite a wobbly brave face from him after the initial shock, it’s just another confidence knock on top of the many he’s already taken since starting this school year.

As well as being gutted for him, I’m feeling particularly let down because I raised this specific scenario with school a couple of months ago, knowing that it was a probability in the near future and knowing what it would do to his confidence. I asked for extra Welsh reading books that my son and I could read together and was told that we could not have them because ‘if you get extra books, everyone else might want one too’. Really? REALLY? Instead it was suggested that I could get Welsh books from the library for him, which would be great if a) the library had a decent selection of Welsh books, which it doesn’t, and b) Welsh wasn’t my second language by a long chalk, making it fairly difficult for me to pick up a reading book and gauge whether it’s at the right level, or likely to be of interest for an eight year old reluctant reader. Which is why I’d wanted reading books from school rather than sourcing them myself in the first place.

So. A mixture of emotions. Chuffed for my girl, gutted for my biggest boy, and frankly pissed off that even though I could see this coming and asked for help, there was no support to even try and stave it off.

Parenting is hard, sometimes.


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12 thoughts on “When a child is overtaken by a younger sibling

  1. Ouch, really tricky one. With the children I’d do the ‘people are good at different things’ too and still praise older one for all the effort. Guess try again with teacher, can understand your frustration though.

  2. I sympathise. We had a convergence with Maths. Just to say that our two seem to choose books they want to borrow (from Canton library) in both languages fairly easily. Once he has picked something up you could ask him whether he thinks it is the right level? He is better positioned to know?

    The other thing, which was particularly useful when Canton library was closed for an extended period recently, was the Welsh eBooks service though admittedly we didn’t borrow many Welsh books (http://wales.libraryebooks.co.uk/). Greater range of books, hopefully, but makes the selection process more problematic (google is your friend).

    Hope that helps.

    1. Mine always seem to find English books they want really easily but remain unimpressed by the Welsh selection, though since Canton reopened they do seem to have more choice…But I hadn’t thought of ebooks – brilliant idea, I will see what’s available in Welsh – he’ll probably like reading on the iPad too as it’ll feel more grownup. Thank you!
      LearnerMother recently posted…When a child is overtaken by a younger siblingMy Profile

  3. Managing sibling rivalry and diverse interests / skills was never easy – it is , indeed, hard work being a parent. I believe your intial response is the best approach as I think you’re unlikely to find the long term answer in direct competition.

    With a limited supply of books , the school has to manage its lending carefully and the class teacher will adhere to clear guidelines about book quotas. I’m sure, however, that they would be delighted to advise on further Welsh reading materials.

    The shop “Caban” in Pontcanna has a great supply of books and some very helpful staff (You should also be able to order these through Canton library btw)

    1. Thank you 🙂

      I’m not imagining that competition will bring the answer. Nor am I worried hugely about the fact of a younger one overtaking an older one as a general principle – it’s bound to happen for some kids with some things.

      My real worry is the fact it’s happened to the child who is least able to handle it – he seems to have such a (completely unjustified) low opinion of himself and his abilities already, and his eyes this is just another thing to back that up.
      LearnerMother recently posted…Our Countrykids HitlistMy Profile

  4. Oh that’s hard. I feel for him, and I’m guessing that it happens often as children get to secondary school and select their options, but at primary it must be really tough. I do think it’s nonsense that if a child needs extra focus on something, and the parent is willing, that the school won’t help. It would make me so angry. Have you seen the head?
    Actually Mummy… recently posted…Project 365 #02: Aldenham Country ParkMy Profile

  5. Oh I really feel for you on this one! It is something that I dread happening in our family too. My little boy has already shown an aptitude for learning and he only started school 6 months ago. I am sure at some point this same scenario will happen to us. Parenting never gets any easier does it? I hope that by now the school have been able to help you and provide you with some guidance on how to encourage your little boy. Our school uses a scheme called Bug Club that uses online books as well as paper copies. The boys seem to really respond to this so perhaps look for some reading books online that he might take to? Good luck x
    Vicki – The Free From Fairy recently posted…Gluten-free, Dairy-free Hot Cross Buns part 1My Profile

  6. Hi, I have only just found your blog and read a couple of your posts about Welsh medium education. I just wanted you to know not to give up hope! My parents are non welsh speakers, they chose the Welsh school as the league tables showed it as the better option.
    Like your son and daughter my elder brother did less well in school than myself. He scraped his way through primary school but did a better in the comp as you get placed in sets that work at the right speed and level for you.
    So now to my family. I have four in school and they have all been surrounded by the language since birth. My 10 year old struggles just like your son. We have been lucky that our school has a teacher who gives support to those struggling in languages and maths. She has been a great help and LM will be starting in the comp this year in a better position. But she still struggles.
    Your son will have to study a modern language in comp and already being bilingual will be a great help to him. You may have found the same problem if he was in an English school. What you need to keep in mind is that he may have struggled to grasp the concept of a subject, say in maths, with just the one language to explain things and having two different languages may actually be a benefit to him as it can help him think about things differently.
    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that some children will struggle in school, no matter what language school they attend and if they are in the Welsh school regardless of the home language.
    I think you need to keep on at the school about him needing help, threaten to go to the LEA if they continue to refuse. There are plenty of work books out there like the ‘help gyda’r gwaith cartref’ series. I’ve even seen some in Whsmiths although
    probably cheaper online plus you can get many welsh books. Amazon do some, so do gomer.co.uk and mabonamabli.co.uk for the under 7’s. There are even welsh versions of books like the diary of a wimpy kid around, I would steer clear of the harry potter ones though, you practically need a masters degree to read those lol
    Good luck, its hard to see our kids upset but things will all work itself out in the end x

  7. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment – it’s reassuring to hear from someone who’s made the same choices. I think keeping the pressure on with school will be key – they wrote to me in half term to say he’d have daily one on one reading but in fact these have only happened twice a week or so, so I need to gird my loins and make sure it happens daily next term.
    I’m glad you said that about the Harry Potter books, I had a quick flick through the first one and even though I’ve been learning Welsh for ages it looked wayyyy beyond anything I, or he, could manage!
    Thank you again for reading and replying 🙂
    LearnerMother recently posted…Silent Sunday 30.03.14My Profile

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