Parents Who Brag about Their Kids

Archived Q&A and Reviews

My friends' saintly kids

Feb 2007

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.
Real Mom

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 the opposite!
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, right?

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 own.
Been there

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!
modest mommy
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 talk 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 it down.
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! 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