Parenting Solutions: Bragging (page 3)
Acts like a know-it-all, brags and boasts, always talks about his accomplishments, compares possessions and achievements to others', fails to recognize that boasting is a turnoff
The Change to Parent For
Your child recognizes when it's appropriate (and not) to brag, tunes into how people respond to boasting, tones down the need for one-upmanship, and develops authentic self-esteem.
"I'm so pretty, Mommy, I'm going to be Miss America." "I knew that when I was five." "Get real. I'm the one here with the smarts."
When kids are little, we may think it's cute when they brag about their accomplishments and volunteer all the answers, but beware. If not put in their place, the younger bragger can turn into an older know-it-all, which is anything but becoming (not to mention very unpopular to all those poor souls on the receiving end). Don't get me wrong: I'm not debating your child's intelligence, beauty, talent, or skills, nor am I doubting your pride in your offspring. Your child could well be a budding Einstein, a young Wayne Gretsky, a future Miss America, a potential Itzhak Perlman, or even the next Picasso. He may well deserve recognition and acknowledgment for his strengths.
But this issue has nothing to do with your child's gifts and talents. Instead, it's all about his preoccupation with making sure everyone knows he's good or even better than the other kids, which can usually be quite tactless and a big turnoff. Believe me: no teacher, coach, scout leader, or other child's parent appreciates a kid who always boasts. What peer wants to be around another kid who always boasts and makes him feel inferior? Besides, the best self-esteem is internalized: the child must gain a sense of pride that he accomplished something for the joy of doing it, and it did it on his own; he does not have to share it with the rest of the world. So here are solutions for taming your child's "Look at me!" ways and helping him learn humility, graciousness, and modesty, which will go a long way toward making him a better as well as happier person.
Six Strategies for Change
- Uncover the reason. Your first step to change is to discover why your kid feels the need to brag. Once you've identified the cause, you can implement solutions. The following is a list of common reasons. Check those that may apply to your child:
- "Center stage" upbringing. Have you set a precedent of encouraging your kids to display their talents to friends, relatives, or one another?
- Jealousy. Do you favor one child, or does he feel that you do?
- Low social status. Does he feel that the way to make friends is by "impressing" them? Does he lack the social skills to find friends who accept him for himself?
- Insecurity. Is his boasting a way to gain your approval or time?
- Emphasis on achievement and winning. Do you emphasize the concept of "What did you get?" (for instance, the grade, gold star, or score) with your kid? Do you reinforce or reward your child's perfo
- Sense of being "above others." Do you stress your family's status—economic, social, educational, professional—as being better than others?
- Egocentricity. Is he at the egocentric stage of development? Have you made your child feel as though no one is as intelligent, talented, or capable as he? Is he spoiled?
- Feelings of inadequacy. Is he trying to prove his capabilities to others because deep down he feels "not good enough" or has low self-esteem?
- Perfectionism. Is competition to be "the best" a priority in your house, so he feels the need to prove that he meets your expectations?
- Halt the horn blowing. If you've been putting your younger kid on center stage to parade her talents and beauty (so that everyone "oohs and aahs" over her every move), then cut it out! If you've become a "praise-aholic" each and every time your kid kicks a goal, says a funny joke, ties his shoelace, and blows his nose—cease! If you've been tooting your horn about your family's status, fame, and fortune so that when people see you they run, call a halt. Then pass your new plan on to your spouse, siblings, relatives, and friends so that they can apply the same treatment and your child can learn a little modesty.
- Teach the rules for "civilized" bragging. Reprimanding a young kid for bragging will only make him feel ashamed and less likely to tell you his achievements. So teach the "Private Rule": you will always be delighted to hear his proud moments, but he should tell you privately. Then explain why: "Bragging in front of friends may make them feel as if they aren't as good." Create a private signal (such as pulling on your ear) so that if he "forgets," you can signal for him to stop boasting publicly. Then teach the "After Rule": you can be proud and acknowledge your accomplishment (such as a soccer goal or art project) only after someone mentions it first, so wait for someone to bring it up. Always remember to thank the person for the compliment.
- Point out others' reactions. Kids who brag may have used this habit so long, they're unaware that it's a real turnoff and doesn't win them any points from friends, teammates, or adults. So help your child recognize how others react to his boasting. Here are a few solutions:
- Ask: How would you feel? "You spent a lot of time telling Tim how much better you are on the computer. How do you think he feels? Do you think he'll want to come and play with you again?"
- Point out nonverbal reactions. "Did you see Sara scowl when you showed her your trophies?" "Did you watch Derek roll his eyes when you bragged about your grade?"
- Role-play the other side. "I heard you tell Joni that you are smarter than her in math and show her your report cards. What do you think she'd like to say to you?"
- Encourage compliments. A big part of tempering your kid's bragging and boasting is to help him recognize the accomplishments and achievements of others instead of always focusing on his own strengths, talents, and accolades.
- Teach builder-uppers. Start by teaching a few statements that focus on building others up, such as "Nice try!" "Super!" "Great job!" "Good game!" Then urge your child to use those statements on others when they are deserved.
- Look for strengths in others. Once he feels comfortable encouraging others, teach him how to take his comments up a notch by complimenting a person's specific strength, skill, or talent. You may have to help your kid recognize kinds of traits that can be praised: "Did you notice what a great batter Lewis is? You should let him know!" "I never realized how artistic Ellie is. You should tell her."
- Teach the "Two Praise Rule." The final step is to encourage your child to give at least two sincere and deserved compliments to others every day. I call this the Two Praise Rule. He can deliver the compliments to a family member, friend, or stranger, just as long as your child practices the art of praising someone other than himself. At the end of the day, ask your child whom he praised and how the recipient responded. This is also a great activity to do as a family: because everyone is on board using the Two Praise Rule, there are more examples to learn from.
- Reinforce humility. Remember: true self-esteem is a quiet, inner contentment; the child doesn't feel compelled to let others know of his accomplishments and accolades. Nor does he feel the urge to compare himself to others or put the other guy down. So find ways to temper your child's boasting by acknowledging his moments of humility. "Jesse, I know how proud you must feel about your hockey game. I'm proud of how hard you practice. I also appreciate that you just told Dad and me and didn't call all your friends this time."
What To Expect By Stages And Ages
Preschooler Kids this age are egocentric by nature, so expect them toot their horn and want to share their achievements. They don't yet have the social finesse and empathy to understand that their bragging can be a turnoff. They begin noticing how they differ from peers and sensing their own limitations. Preschoolers also lack ability to distinguish reality from fantasy, so they will sometimes exaggerate or embellish their achievements. See it more as wishful thinking than as lying. Kids usually grow out of the "bragging stage" around kindergarten, when they recognize that other kids can do many things even better than they can.
School Age Being around other school-age kids delivers a dose of reality and helps kids put their abilities and talents in perspective. Trophies, report cards, and certificates are awarded routinely, so kids increasingly measure their accomplishments against their peers. Sports become more competitive; they categorize kids and promote comparisons of who is "best" and "worst." Try to balance your child's activities so as not to emphasize just winning and losing but also teamwork and fairness. Take advantage of his newly developed empathy ("How do you think your friend feels?") to help him begin to recognize the other person's views on bragging. Materialism starts to mount, so watch that your child doesn't begin comparing and bragging about possessions. If he does so, it's time to start boosting gratitude and charity.
Tween Fitting in becomes paramount, and friendships are now based on genuine mutual understanding and affection for one another; each friend makes the other feel good. Bragging becomes a turnoff because the boaster considers only his own strengths, needs, and feelings; the other person will see the friendship as one-sided, which will probably cause it to fail. Academic competitiveness is at a height, further categorizing kids.
rmance (such as with money or privileges)?
One study found that nine out of ten adults felt that as they were growing up, they had to display a skill, talent, or special ability in order to gain their parents' love.15 Might your child be feeling this way? If so, it could very well be a reason for his bragging or know-it-all ways. Take heed: researchers also found that needing to demonstrate competencies learned in childhood remains a pattern well into adulthood. This time, though, the adult uses his profession as a means of gaining approval and accolades from loved ones. Once again, instead of feeling a sense of quiet, inner confidence in his talents and strengths, he must toot his horn and demonstrate them to others for approval. Such individuals are at risk for anxiety, low self-esteem, and the fear of disappointment. Make sure your child knows that your love is based just on who he is—and not on that gold star, goal, or SAT score.
One Parent's Answer
A mom from Charlotte writes:
Our son was not only bragging to the world about his baseball skills but exaggerating them as well. The truth is, he's a great baseball player, but he certainly isn't as great as he makes himself out to be. Toning down his overblown claims without derailing his confidence was tricky, but he had to learn to be more realistic about his performance. Whenever he would exaggerate, we acknowledged his skills minus the superlatives and mentioned another team member's abilities as well. "You are a good player. Wayne is a good hitter also." It took a while, but he became a little more realistic about his playing ability and even started recognizing the abilities and strengths of others.
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