Recently one of my Facebook friends posted – “I don’t brag often but when I do it’s about my kids!” Past experience has taught me to tread carefully when dealing with a Palin-esque mama grizzly on Facebook (one unfriended my when I challenged her brag that single mothers had raised the past two Democratic presidents), but I decided to assume that this friend was not merely fishing for compliments. The first three comments had already encouraged my friend to keep on bragging when I offered the following contrary mindset:
- “I’m not sure when that became popular; when I was growing up, that was considered undignified.”
Several hours later, my friend “liked” my comment, but this morning I woke up to a short response – “[frown] Mike.” This response prompted me to dig a little deeper into the internet before responding as follows:
- “I’m obviously outnumbered and probably outdated, but when I googled, ‘Is it good to brag about your kids,’ the first few entries, including WebMD and Parenting, consistently opined that it was a bad idea.”
The WebMD article, titled “Dealing With Bragging Parents,” was especially informative:
- All this child-centered bragging, despite its patent violation of the social ideals of modesty and respect for others, may be, says University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau, PhD, an outgrowth of the hothouse style of parenting that pervades our culture. Lareau, who has studied the habits and behaviors of contemporary families, calls this approach “concerted cultivation.” She says it’s a way middle-class parents tend to see “parenting as a project,” something to be managed and organized and programmed. “There’s a way in which an activity is more intense for the mother than it is even for the child,” says Lareau. “And the competitive nature of activities is woven into the heart of the process.”
- Focus on Child, Not Accomplishments. That’s why, says psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld, MD, co-author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, it’s important to concentrate on the whole child. “Many focus on their children’s achievements, rather than getting to know their kids as individuals,” says Rosenfeld. “The dilemma is when kids become valued only for their accomplishments — or when they live up to your fantasies of what they ought to accomplish — not for who they are as people.”
- Model the behavior you want your kids to develop. “If they see and hear you bragging, that’s the behavior they’ll emulate,” says Alvin Rosenfeld, MD.
- Remember the basics of social etiquette. Don’t be a braggart. Remember also that you don’t know about other family’s struggles and challenges. The parent you’re telling about your child’s athletic accomplishments, for example, may have a child with a physical disability.
- Focus on who your children are as people rather than their latest test score. “We rarely hear the simple praise, ‘He is such a good (or good-hearted) kid,'” says Rosenfeld.
- Restrict talk about your child’s successes and talents to the child’s other parent, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Just like you, these people know your child is the smartest, bravest, best child on earth.
(Incidentally, a different website defines hot-house parenting as “Deadly Parenting Style 2: Incubator ‘Hothouse’ Parenting – Pushing your kids into learning earlier than appropriate for their cognitive age and developmental level.”)
My Facebook friend has not further responded, but I’m glad that she prompted me to look a little deeper and I hope she is doing the same.