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Teaching kids not to brag

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Pride versus gloating

How can you teach kids to be proud of their accomplishments, without bragging? Like all parents, I am proud of my kids. I'm bursting with pride actually. I would love to shout from the rooftops the awesome things they do. But I don't, of course. I can tell a choice few people, but not too many, really. Years of personal experience have helped me understand that what can feel like pride to one person can sound like gloating or bragging to another (and even within the family). I've learned the hard way.

Child with A+I'm finding this one issue particularly difficult to teach to my children. I want them to be proud of their accomplishments, of course, especially the ones they work so hard to achieve. However, it seems that with pride comes an extra responsibility to consider the feelings of others.

Whose issue is it?

When I was in high school, I chose to apply to colleges beyond the local comfort zone. When I was accepted to a distant school, I was proud of that, and exited for my new adventure. I'd worked hard. However, during the last couple months of high school, when people - everyone from teachers to family friends to other students - asked where I was going to go, and I responded, I was often accused of gloating. It was confusing. What was I supposed to do, decline to answer the question? Feel ashamed somehow?The issue, of course, was not mine. The people hearing the news were the ones who had the issue, whatever it was. But I did quickly learn to take care in my answers. I would be cagey at first ("I've decided to go out-of-state," I'd say), and give the "whole truth" only when pressed. It was the ones who wanted the "whole truth" who, generally speaking, were excited for me and shared in my pride.It's unfortunate that it came to that, but it did. While one can say the others were "wrong" or whatever, it's never wrong to consider the feelings of others.

Everyday pride, everyday sensitivity

Now, with three kids with unique personalities at very different developmental stages, I find myself trying to address the pride versus gloating issue more than I thought I would. I thought I'd done such a good job promoting pride among the kids for each other (ha!), but still the issue surfaces.My kids are so different. Each has their own strengths and relative weaknesses. Each has a little bit of jealousy for some of those strengths in their siblings - and in that jealousy is where the pride versus gloating issue seems to rise the most.

Boost their self esteem

My imperfect solution is to try to boost my kids self esteem around their individual strengths, and especially at times when another of the kids has achieved something about which they are very proud. For example, when Woody brings home a particularly good spelling test, I'm thrilled and proud, of course, but I make sure I pay a couple extra compliments to Alfs' instrument playing. That seems to soften any feelings that the other is bragging when the good spelling test comes up. In this way I am trying to express my pride in all my kids' accomplishments, all the time - and hopefully show the kids that they can be proud of their siblings' accomplishments.At the same time, though, I caution my kids about bragging. When they achieve something that they want to tell, I ask them to consider the why of telling, especially people beyond the immediate family. Is it to draw more attention to themselves? Or do they truly want to share the news? Is the person they are telling someone they are sure will share in the pride? They are understanding more and more that they can be proud of their accomplishments and express it while considering the feelings of others.This is a very fine line to walk. We all can be - and should be - proud of what we have achieved in life. We can share that pride. But we can also think about the feelings of others in that pride. This is a lesson I am still learning myself! My kids seem to be learning this lesson earlier and better than I did. And, yeah, I'm proud of them.

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