19/08/2014 16:28 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

High Achieving Children. So What?

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It wasn't a Eureka moment, more of a gradual realisation, but I now know for certain that all I want for my children is for them to be happy and fulfilled. Obvious? Yes I know, but until recently there was an extra criteria. Not only did I want them to be happy and fulfilled, I also wanted them to be high academic achievers.

I remember telling my parents when I was about 14 that I wanted to be a receptionist. I thought it was a terribly glamorous job and I wanted to be terribly glamorous. Their reaction was that it was entirely unsuitable. Well they were right in one respect, glamour wasn't my strong point but that aside they felt it wasn't an appropriate career for a nicely brought up grammar school girl. My raison-d'être was to go to university and get a well paid job. So, no surprise, I got sucked into the same trap.

I now have a different perspective.


​I no longer wish for my children to be doctors, lawyers or hedge fund managers. I believe they should be aiming to do what exactly they want to do and if that job pays peanuts, well then let them be happy monkeys.


Rightly or wrongly our culture encourages us to strive toward financial success, usually obtained on the back of academic success. I have no illusions, for some that is absolutely right but it's not for everyone regardless of their IQ.

Growing up in an era of relatively high unemployment adds to the pressure, or should that be perpetuates the myth? Schools almost invariably guide able students toward university.

But whether they're seriously clever or simply real grafters does that mean they should automatically follow the lemming like flight - or for some weary trudge - to do any course at any university?

Is it everything to be an academic? Even if their end goal is to be wealthy, the glory days of student life must now be shadowed with the fear of repaying loans and potential unemployment as a degree is no longer a passport to a highly paid job.


There is a fine line between encouraging our children to reach their academic potential which allows them more choice, and shoving them in a direction we see as correct.


I certainly won't stop nagging my youngest to turn in a decent piece of homework. After all my job is to encourage and where necessary bribe, because doing your best in whatever you do is probably the right way to approach life. The emphasis though must be on their personal best with their goal in mind, not yours.

So if our 'children' wish to leave school at 17 or 18 and they are mature enough to make that decision, I believe we should support them. If on the other hand they have no life plan, as is the case with many, then of course we should encourage them to seek further qualifications.

But it's worth bearing in mind a report published by the Office of National Statistics last year revealing that graduates have an unemployment rate of 4 and GCSE standard 8 of UK adults were found to prefer happiness and wellbeing to great wealth.

So, who are the clever ones? Those who do a job that they love regardless of their financial reward, or those who toil endlessly chasing the next rung on the ladder of success.

In my view if your child values something with a passion, then they are the real high achievers.

What do you think?

Off to university? Have you prepared your teenager properly?