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Parents Who Brag about Their Kids
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Parents Who Brag about Their Kids
Help - this is driving me crazy. Am I the only parent who finds
it off-putting to listen to friends bragging about their
children? Not only the holiday cards filled with ''Agnes
donates her allowance to charity, is the star of her bowling
team, is teaching herself Russian'' blah blah blah. (One
friend's card even quoted word for word some glowing praise
from her child's teacher). But also just day to day
conversation - how great my kid is at this or that sport, how
mature she is, how articulate he is, how beautiful her hair is
(?!), on and on. This would not bug me if it was occasionally
mixed in with something bad the kid did or said. But I guess
their kids don't ever do anything that is less than wonderful.
And I need to say that these are people who would never dream
of bragging about how great their own hair looks or the great
performance review they got at work, but it seems to be a whole
different thing when it comes to their kids. Is there a polite
way to get them to chill out or should I just start spending
more time with my friends who can talk about their kids as if
they were kids, not saints?
Parent of Not Perfect Child
This is one of my pet peeves, too! I find it amazing that people will
unselfconsciously go on and on about their children's accomplishments, insights
and talents without any thought at all. Not only is it bad manners, but it can be
hurtful as well. I have seen parents brag about their child's athleticism or academic
prowess to parents whose children have health problems or learning disabilities.
I think that bragging like this arises from insecurity on the parent's part -- they
want to reassure themselves and tell the world that they are doing a fabulous job, as
evidenced by little Waldo/Esmerelda's accomplishments.
My solution? Hang out with real people, those who acknowledge that life and
parenting have their ups and downs. And then you can laugh together about that
Christmas card that included an excerpt from the child's report card.
I suppose some parents brag about their kids in a competitive or
comparative way, but I'd guess that for many they are simply
expressing their love for their kids and their excitement about
their qualities or achievements. Your post is probably a good
reminder that one can easily go overboard in this direction, but
try to have compassion for these over-enthusiastic moms and dads.
Certainly better to be happy and positive about their kids than
I confess I was happy to read this post, since I had secretly
come to believe I was the only parent on the planet who feels
this way. Certainly one doesn't want to succumb to
schadenfreude and wish for other families (including the kids)
to experience more and worse problems so that these might
become a different kind of conversation topic. I also don't
think the poster means that parents should NEVER exult over
their children's achievements. It's a matter of balance,
Parents who bludgeon you unrelentingly with their kids' virtues
and achievements are, in my humble opinion, trying to bolster
themselves through their children. If my children are
wonderful, then so am I! I don't like it, either.
But what to do? I believe in following Miss Manners' dictum
that rude or rude-tending behavior should never be answered by
rudeness of one's own. So I cannot see any merit in telling a
bragging parent outright to tone it down. It's probably a sure
recipe for a falling-out and residually wounded feelings.
My own advice is to smile, nod, and listen politely, and then
talk in turn about one's own children in a more balanced way,
therefore kind of ''modeling'' the kind of discussion you would
like to see reciprocated. Frankly, with a parent who is firmly
committed to trumpeting his/her kids' wonderfulness constantly,
I doubt this will change anything. That being the case, you can
then tactfully change the subject, or when things get really
oppressive, retreat to the company of people whose
conversational style and values are more compatible with your
I laughed out loud when I read your post, as I/we can so relate.
I know that we live in a competitive culture, but I had no idea
that it was so intense w/ parents and kids until we became new
parents. My husband and I are pretty low-key- and I guess,
humble and private.
I don't have a lot of advice but some thoughts. First of all, I
have found that we have have tended to migrate to more
like-minded parents w/ similar values, at least in terms of close
friends and folks w/ whom we spend time.
But, in terms of casual acquaintances, etc., I find that I either
make a comment like, ''oh, yes. how wonderful. it's amazing how
different and special all kids are..'' Then, I change topics to
something else - common interest, current event, etc. The
reality is when I want parenting support or advice, I/we don't go
to these friends/acquaintances; we choose those who are more
like-minded. Unfortunately, it feels like it's a pretty small
group. And, if after trying to change topics or deflect, the
parent is still so clueless and obnoxious, I usually just leave
the conversation, etc.
It saddens me sometimes that people cannot be more real,
empathetic and compassionate. As humans, we're all imperfect -
kids too. And, we're not doing our kids any favors by praising
them like this and making them so narcisstic. And, that we, as
parents, seem to get our self-esteem/self-worth by having perfect
kids.. Well, as you can see, don't get me started..
I'll be curious as to what other responses there are to this
post! Thanks for posting.
Also annoyed w/ all the bragging
I had to laugh when I read your message thinking of a line from
a holiday letter we got this year: ''Jasmine is excelling in
kindergarten!'' I guess she'll be ready for Harvard in no-
time! Why not just ''Jasmine enjoys kindergarten'' ? I don't get
the need to boast to other kids' parents, either, except to
proud grandmas and aunties, of course!
It's a sign of the times that parents are bragging so much about
their kids! Alot of it has to do with paranoia that their kids
won't be able to afford the lifestyle they have in the bay area.
So they turn their kids into super perfect human beings that can
speak 3 languages by age 5, do calculus by age 7, play several
musical instruments by age 9, and start a non-profit by age 11.
And even then, it's not enough. They won't stop bragging. My wife
and I encounter this all the time and it drives us crazy. My
advice to you is to do exactly what you said which is to ''just
start spending more time with your friends who can talk about
their kids as if they were kids, not saints.'' For those parents
who do otherwise, the best advice is to politely change the
subject. If they continue to brag, then don't spend time with
them at all.
Can't Stand It Either
Honestly, I think it's normal. It is one of the privilages of being a parent to have
something you can brag about without feeling guilty. I don't tend to brag (unless
someone asks) because it makes me a bit uncomfortable to do it myself, but I don't
mind when someone else does. I like to hear about other peoples' kids
achievements; I think it's fun. I don't, however, find it appropriete for parents to
about bad things, except with very young kids, because it can be embarrassing to
the children when their misdeeds are shared. Just try not to dwell on it, and
remember that they aren't putting your kid down, nor are they saying their own
children are perfect. They are only sharing things about their child.
I work with mostly PhDs. I think that there is not a lot of
psychoanalysis necessary to understand why they talk about how
smart their kids are. Its because they are proud of their kids,
and place value on ''exceeding'' the norm on things intellectual,
etc. I generally take it for what it is, and say ''that's just
great, you must be really proud''. If someone goes on too
outrageously long, I have a somewhat funny/failsafe response.
Once they turn to ask how my son is doing (he is 3), I
say ''Well, he's mastered the classics, and has also moved on to
linear algebra. The real problem is that I cannot keep up with
his French.'' (or something like that). I don't say it in a mean
way (no edge to my voice). I just laugh while I am saying it.
And then I say ''we love him a lot''. It ALWAYS makes the person
laugh (and often they say ''oh, god, was I going ON?'' and laugh
more). I think that one should not read much into the intention
of those who brag. But if the bragging bothers you, there are
lots of ways to let them know that you would prefer them to tone
judge the bragging, not the bragger
I just had to respond after reading all the other posts...
I am probably one of those parents that brag too much...but in my
defense, I don't usually blurt out unsolicited comments about my
kid in holiday letters or in casual conversation. I AM one of
those parents that shares a gazillion photos of my daughter whom
I happen to believe is one of the most beautiful (physically,
well yes, but mostly because of the little person she is turning
out to be) kids on earth. My husband and I don't have any living
parents so we don't have grandparents who traditionally are the
ones to do all the bragging (and are readily forgiven because
they are grandparents!) and no very close relatives to share our
unending joy with. So my friends are my family and end up
receiving the brunt of it I suppose. I try never to glorify my
child's accomplishments unless directly asked, ie. ''how does she
like kindergarten?'' to which I enthusiastically reply ''She loves
it! She's doing so well, making lots of friends...blah, blah
,blah.'' I suppose I feel a HUGE sense of accomplishment after
having agonized about making the right choice of school for her,
and now it's like a pat on my back - ''I done good!'' - she's
thriving and happy so I guess I made the right choice. It
certainly is a reminder that we are doing something right as
parents (and alleviates some of the guilt I've felt over past
''not so good'' choices ;-]). But with all the praise I give and
boasting I may do, I DO make sure that my daughter knows that
with all her accomplishments, even though they make me eternally
proud of her, that she is still a person with faults, who makes
mistakes and is certainly not a better person than anyone else
for having made those accomplishments.
Mostly, however, I think if I brag or boast about my kid, either
verbally or visually, that it stems from mere astonishment..that
this wonderful, lovely, sweet, kind, intelligent, thoughtful
(should I go on?) child came from....me! That somehow her dad and
I produced this amazing human being. So I guess we are proud of
ourselves, after all.
I guess there are parents out there that subliminally convey the
message ''my kids are better than yours'' or ''i'm a better parent
than you'' when they go on about their children. But try not to
generalize that we are all just trying to make ourselves feel
better, or make you feel worse. Some of us are just so damn happy
to be so blessed with wonderful kids.
One very lucky mom
Just wanted to add another possibility to the mix: while some parents are
competitive, insecure, etc. others are just so head over heels in love with their
children that they can't help talking about how wonderful they are. I'm sure some of
these parents don't even realize they are bragging. You've probably had friends who
did the same thing when they got a crush on someone or a new boyfriend/girlfriend
and just couldn't stop talking about them. My advice is the same as previous posters
(change the subject, spend more time with like-minded parents, etc.) but perhaps
thinking of them as ga-ga in love rather than competitive will help you feel more
kindly toward them and not take it personally. (Personally, I try not to spend time
with people who are so smitten with their own kids that they can't even see how
amazing mine are!)
--sympathy for the smitten, hoping they come back to earth
this page was last updated: Nov 8, 2008
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