While we were vacationing with my Mom at Disney World, the cast members brought out some hula hoops. My children all have their own weighted exercise hula hoops and they use them all the time. So when Indigo saw the hoops, she went running over and started to use one.
We were soon joined by two parents with their single daughter who looked to be about six. When the daughter started hula hooping, the parents announced to the general public that their daughter is a hula hoop champion. I just smiled, nodded (they weren’t talking directly to me) and kept watching Indigo. Then they announced that she had won the hula hoop contest at Fort Wilderness.
Then the Mom repeated it. Then the daughter repeated it. Then the Dad repeated it. At which point some of the other moms and dads just started shifting their weight and looking at each other with a slight eye roll.
The parents of the “hula hoop champ” were making all of us rather uncomfortable. So much so, that I later told Jim how awkward it was. He just laughed and I forgot about the incident until today when I read an article called A Truce in the Bragging Wars by Bruce Feiler. It instantly reminded me of these parents.
I admit that I enjoy bragging about my kids. Blogging about everything we do is a lot of fun for me and recording their accomplishments often occurs. But I try to be very careful not to regularly cross the line from being proud to bragging. I know I sometimes do cross the line (don’t most parents?), but I try to keep it in check. Why? Because bragging can become very annoying, very quickly.
I’ve learned to adhere to the following seven bragging principles:
1. Only Brag to People who Care. There are people in my life (like my mom and my best friend) who enjoy hearing the nitty, gritty details of my children’s accomplishments. It’s ok to brag to these people as much as I want. I would caution you to keep your list short, and not assume certain people really care about these details. It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s a matter of personalities. Some people (even grandparents) are only being polite and may get tired of hearing all the details.
2. Keep it short and sweet. When you’re bragging about something, stick with the basics. Don’t tell a long story filled with tangents. If somebody asks for more details, you can fill them in. When I brag on one of my children, I make sure to keep the brag amusing and/or to get to the point right away. Long, drawn out, meaningless bragging is extremely annoying.
3. Don’t “one-up”. If someone else brags about their child, don’t feel you have to share that your child also did the same thing (better, faster, or earlier). Let the other person have the spotlight.
4. Don’t put others down with your bragging. Bragging should never make you feel good at the expense of making someone else feel bad. Be aware of the people who are listening when you are bragging and make sure you are not rubbing salt into the wound of one of their child’s failures. For example, let’s say you know that 30 kids tried out for a spot on the local team, and your child was the only one his/her age to make the team. Don’t brag about your child’s sports prowess to the parents of your child’s friends.
5. Let others do the bragging for you. The really good stuff gets shared by other people. Give them the opportunity to speak of it first.
6. Help other braggarts out. When someone is going overboard, help them avoid making everyone uncomfortable by completing it, and continuing on. Braggarts need to feel appreciated, or impressive, or superior for some reason. Figure out why they are bragging, help them fulfill their need, then move on. Don’t let them stay stuck on bragging. For example, I could have said to the hula hoop champ’s mom, “Wow, she really is talented. Have you considered getting her an exercise hoop so she can continue to get better?” This would have acknowledged how impressive her daughter was (at least to her) and moved the conversation on to a new level of hooping, beyond the contest she won. By not engaging her, all of us within earshot just left this mom in the rut of bragging.
7. Teach your kids how to brag appropriately. The only thing worse than annoying parents who brag are annoying children who brag. Like everything else I talk about, if we want our children to display proper behavior, we not only have to train them on it, but we have to model it for them.
Remember that so much of “bragging” is contextual and depends on the situation, the people involved, and the tone used. If you have something to share, be aware of the situation before you start bragging. Know your audience and watch their reactions so you know when you’ve said enough. Know whether or not it is appropriate to “brag”, and do it in an appropriate manner. If you’re not sure, keep quiet about it.
What about you? Do you have difficulty with too much bragging – either yourself or someone else in your life? I’d love to hear how you handle it.