This morning I woke up in a bad mood after suffering two losses in Fantasy Football yesterday, and my mood quickly worsened when I read a Facebook friend’s lengthy braggadocio about his college daughter. This friend, who is a well-known conservative politician, was “proud” that his daughter had competed successfully in a Moot Court competition. I will spare you the details, which were spread over three paragraphs. This guy has a habit of this type of behavior, and I recalled him once saying, “I don’t like to brag, but Miss Perfect was recently named to the Dean’s List.”
I decided to post on the subject, not only because I was in a bad mood, but also because my memory was still fresh from reading yesterday about the George H.W. Bush family style of parenting, where their kids were taught that they were neither special nor entitled. (The Mitt Romney family seems cut from the same cloth.)
A little internet research revealed that my feelings were simpatico with many Americans. As one website noted:
- “At one time, boasting was considered poor form, an exercise in vanity and bad manners and to heap garlands of praise on a child, especially for their looks, was thought to be detrimental to the development of their good character.”
- “I also think in a round about way, it’s a means of bragging about yourself, without actually bragging about yourself. Narcissistic? Absolutely.”
A NY Times blog assured me that I am not alone:
- “But a rare consensus has emerged on at least one topic. What subject could possibly be so clear-cut it has elicited once-in-a-generation unanimity? That parents should stop bragging about their children.”
The Times blog went on two suggest four guidelines for “acceptable chest-thumping”:
- Brag about how good a child you have, not how good a parent you are.
- Brag about effort, not accomplishment.
- Brag in context. People generally don’t mind if parents brag, as long as they don’t pretend they’re Stepford parents and their children are little angels. “I want to hear the bragging in the context of real, gritty, poopy life,” he said. “If you’re trying to sell me your perfect life, the hate machine starts humming again.”
- Follow “the bragging formula.” Another common piece of advice — each time you criticize someone, you should give multiple compliments — applies equally well in reverse. Each boast about a child should come surrounded by three negatives. My son is on the honor roll (but still wets his bed).
As I was doing my internet research, however, I gradually got a feeling of déjà vu, like I’ve examined this issue before. So I searched my blog for “parenting” posts, and sure enough I found a similar post from earlier this year titled “Bragging on your kids.”
The sources may have changed, but the conclusion is the same – an out-of-control ego is not a pretty thing.