childrens progress - Bubbablue and me

Why do we get impatient over children’s learning progress

I’m the first to admit I’m really competitive. And I’d like N to be more so. Maybe if he was, he’d be more bothered to achieve more. But he just wants to do things right – which for him, and me, because he’s happy which is the most important thing, works out well. Thankfully he manages to do ok, he just does it his way. But I’m all too familiar with the impatience for our children’s learning progress to be faster.

I had a recent chat with my best friend about swimming. She wanted to know how fast N progressed because she was frustrated that it seemed to be slow going. N is not the example to be giving because he took 6 years to swim 10 metres unaided! But he’s doing really well now and hopefully I was able to put her mind at ease.

childrens progress - Bubbablue and me

Where does impatience over learning progress come from?

Baby led but not child led

Nowadays baby led is often seen as a good way to bring up babies. Most people probably use what works for them. I know I wanted to have a routine, but it ended up with N working out his own routine and we just went with the flow because it worked with our days.

I’d say within boundaries we’re still fairly child led about certain things. But others we need to stick to a routine to get things done. But with children’s progress it’s hard not to measure

Judgement and peer pressure

I’m not one to let judgement get to me. Listening to others getting bullied and pushed by family and friends to parent (or blog) in certain ways, I’ve been lucky in that none of my friends have ever told me to do things a different way. But however much you ignore it, as a parent you usually have some kind of expectation when you see others’ children achieving things that maybe you think yours should be doing too. SATs and Early Years testing and assessments add fuel to that.

Personal experience

For my best friend and I, we were both high fliers at school. We’ve both done well at work, got on with life and don’t tend to struggle with academia or trying new things. So it’s hard to remember what It’s like learning when you start school. Added to that, what they learn at school is so much more structured than it was when we were there.

So finding things easy yourself, can make you put pressure on timings and expectations for your children.

Lack of feedback

When children are younger and at day nurseries or preschool, we get lots of feedback on a daily basis. What the children have been up to, learning journals, and we’re able to ask questions every time we pick up.  But once children are at school, however great the school is at feeding back, and giving parents the opportunity to ask questoins and meet the teacher about any concerns. that feedback is severely restricted. We only tend to hear about any problems, but it’s hard to tell how they should be getting on at certain stages and how they’re doing versus their peers. Obviously we shouldn’t compare, but it gives a good guide.

Happy kids make progress

For me, it’s been hard seeing N taking his time with swimming, tennis, reading and writing. I know he performs best when he does things in his own time, when he wants to. He’s always been text book in his development and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so.

Yes he wasn’t interested in reading and still isn’t unless it’s something he really wants to find out about (food packets and menus but not books), and it took him until year 2 for it to really click. But he can read sufficiently well at the moment and I just need to keep encouraging him.

Writing was also something he wasn’t interested in formally. But he loves (starting) writing pages and pages of story, and enjoys handwriting. He’s also spot on with his grammar. But creative writing and actually finishing something he’s started…I feel for his school teachers.

With tennis it’s a slog. He really enjoys it, but he’s not a natural sportsman. He needs to work at it. But if N has found a sport to be a hobby for life, I’m happy.

As for swimming, he’d do anything to not have to do lessons, but once he’s there he enjoys them and works hard. His aim is to get through level 5 so he can give up lessons, so he’s aiming for that. And in the meantime is turning into a nice (if not fast) technically able swimmer.


What we parents need to remember is that development isn’t a continuous upward progress curve. There’s ups and downs, growth spurts get in the way, as well as hormonal times, family and friendship issues. Plus sometimes kids just need to spend time at a plateau reinforcing what they’re learning before moving up the next upwards trajectory.

With swimming I had to reassure my friend that her son was doing fine.

If your child loves the water that’s one positive.

If they try hard and listen to the teacher that’s another.

It doesn’t matter what other children are doing – you don’t know If their parents are both former champion swimmers who take their children swimming twice a week outside of lessons.

Remember that their child who’s amazing at swimming might be terrible at school studies while that might be your child’s forte.

It’s so hard to remember these things when you’re so invested in your child, and want them to do so well.

I think the main thing to remember is if they’re happy, they’re likely to continue to progress because they’ll apply themselves to the things they enjoy.

How do you get over these thoughts? Is children’s learning progress something you really worry about?

Mum Muddling Through

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  1. I have four kids and I struggle not to compare them with one another let alone their peers. I reckon one of the reasons we compare is that we are trying to determine whether we are doing ok as mums. All our lives in other jobs or at school we’ve had feeback and tests to guage how well we are doing and whether we are ‘getting it right’. Parenting is just so difficult as often there is no wrong and right, just better or worse. Maybe that’s why we say that in our wedding vows?? 😀 But seriously, unless our kids need professional intervention then they are probably doing ok, and maybe we shouldn’t worry so much. #coolmumclub

  2. I definitely try to encourage the girls to focus on the trying rather than the achievement, but it’s always tempting to compare them to others isn’t it? I guess as parents we are also just trying to work out the norm – after all, we are all new to this malarkey right? Unless you’re a teacher it’s not always easy to guage how well your child is doing compared to their age average.
    Interesting post, thanks for linking to #CoolMumClub

    1. That’s exactly it. We don’t want our children to struggle, so to help them we need to know how they’re doing compared with others. But it’s then hard not to focus just on achievements

  3. i think all parents feel that in the early days their child ‘has to’ hit their milestones before an other child. it can get pretty competitive or so i found. Each child is an individual. .

    1. I wasn’t too bad when he was younger, but he was pretty text book following all the stages right on time. But you can certainly get pulled into the competitive nature of parenting babies and toddlers.

  4. I think it’s an easy trap to fall into, as we do always want the best for our kids and with school having its tests and targets, it’s easy to see why we feel we need to measures our kids’ progress. But like you, I tend to focus on them enjoying school and being happy there, as I do think if they’re comfortable they’ll do better, similarly with clubs and activities. They’re only little and so much can still change with their learning styles and development, so I remind myself that this is their childhood and it should be fun for them, and as long as they are not struggling and unhappy at school, that’s fine with me.

    1. That’s definitely the way I feel. Especially as I was academic and loved school and found it easy, but the OH hated school and is really quite down on it, so I don’t want to push N too much to put him off. I’d love him to be top of the class but it’s not going to happen, so as long as he’s progressing and the teachers are happy with his progress I’m pleased with that.

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