Bragging Rights: Yours, Mine, Every Parent’s

Our Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech—and as far as I’m concerned, that includes parental bragging rights. I’m not one of those obnoxious parents who touts my child’s every last feat to every person I meet, nor do I post hourly video updates of his antics to my Facebook page. But I do boast when it’s called for, and I do share milestone albums on Facebook, funny exchanges on Twitter… Yesterday, for instance:

 

 

And that’s my prerogative. I try to dole out the boasting equitably—I might share a particularly goofy outburst of my son’s with a co-worker in the morning, but then I’ll hold off gloating about how he tried three new foods this week until I talk to my mother-in-law in the evening. The praise from my son’s preschool teacher about his excellent fine-motor skills is reserved for dinner conversation with my husband. And my pride over my boy’s generosity spills forth into a late-night social media update. Often, nada.

I'm pretty sure if I had boasted that my son (pictured here at one) was going to be a doctor, that'd be overbearing. Damn sure!

I’m pretty sure if I had boasted that my son (pictured here at one) was going to be a doctor, that’d be overbearing. Damn sure!

We’ve all got so much to be proud of. Parenting—albeit the best job ever—is also without doubt one of the most challenging jobs. Every one of our children’s triumphs is cause for celebration, and some of them are worth sharing. (Some, dear parents, are not).

 

My Top 11 Rules for Parental Bragging

  1. Don’t brag about your child’s bodily functions, unless it’s to your co-parent. Please. Believe me when I say that even other parents—even your siblings and your child’s grandparents—will not be as goo-goo over your child’s poop as you are.
  2. Edit. Go for 20 pictures in that Facebook album from your daughter’s dance recital, not 200. Send an email update about your kid’s latest report card to family, not to every friend in your address book.
  3. Tweet. Most parents I know aren’t on Twitter, but I advocate their joining. If it weren’t for my job in media, I never would have succumbed—but then, I wouldn’t have a forum for sharing frivolous observations about my son that make me smile, for gloating about things that might seem nonsensical to some. I just may devote another post to why all parents should be on Twitter, but for now:
    • It’s evanescent. People can easily ignore you (and, no hurt feelings).
    • It’s like a mini-journal—and re-discovering snippets of our family life there later can be surprising, revealing, and wonderful.
  4. Think about how your boasts will impact your child. Don’t, for example, post a status update to your Facebook page about your daughter being invited to the junior prom by the most popular boy in her class, even if you’re chomping at the bit to share. Tone down your praise of your son’s abilities on the ballfield if he is surrounded by his teammates during the telling. Do praise—within his earshot—your toddler’s achievement of going a whole day without a tantrum or of his sharing on the playground—he’ll internalize your pride and understand it’s something to aspire to in the future.
  5. Consider your audience. The coffee guy doesn’t care about your kid unless she’s ordering a latte. Your boss only wants a general update on your family, even if she feigns deeper interest. Your sister wants to hear all about her nephew’s achievements, but only if they are related in a non-boastful manner—and only if you also share your parental tribulations, too. Your other children want to hear about their siblings’ amazing accomplishments, but only if there is no sense of competition or favoritism involved.
  6. Don’t overdo it. Seriously, please don’t be obnoxious. If you realize while telling the story of your kid’s latest endeavor that you’ve got the words to your speech memorized, stop talking. If you notice even one person rolling her eyes or quickly changing the subject when you begin sharing a story about your child, try some self-reflection. Maybe buy yourself a journal.
  7. Think about the intention of your gloating: Are you genuinely proud of something your child has done, or are you giving yourself a pat on the back? Don’t try to live vicariously through your kids, and don’t tell us about how he made the A team for basketball because you chose the right after-school program.
  8. Don’t overcompliment your kids at the expense of offering constructive criticism.
  9. Don’t offer praise where none is due. Even if you think you are helping develop self-esteem, this is not a healthy way to go about it.
  10. Don’t over-do compliments about your kids’ physical appearance, even if it is to others and not to them directly. Pop culture, media, and peers put enough pressure on our tweens and teens to look a certain way, to be thin, to be perfect, that I don’t believe it is helpful for them to feel that their parents’ love, admiration, or respect is contingent at all upon their looks.
  11. Be genuine.

So, I Guess This Isn’t New Territory

I began writing this post because I had been thinking about some of the over-the-top comments that appeared on NYMetroParents’ Facebook page with regard to our cover contest. It had become apparent that some parents would go to great lengths to get their children a coveted cover. We launched the contest with some great prizes, as well as telling parents that they’d get the “ultimate bragging rights”—and it was and continues to be all in good fun. I am grateful to (almost all of) our entrants for sharing in that sense of fun—we all think our own kids are cover-worthy, and why not? But when I saw how deep the competition ran for a few individuals, I began to think more seriously about all the wonderful (justifiable) things we as parents brag about—and rightfully so.

I posted this comment on Facebook:

Picture 1

…and here are a few of my favorite responses:

Picture 2Picture 3Picture 4

Only when I Googled something about bragging and kids’ self-esteem for this post did I discover an abundance of conversation on this same topic around the web—and apparently the consensus is that parents should stop bragging altogether. Guess I’m in the minority. I am, however, in good company:

I agree with NYTimes writer Bruce Feiler: “Parenting is tough enough; can’t you take a victory lap every now and then?”

Just, follow some rules.

 

Two Sets of Rules, Lots of Commonality

And, so it seems, Mr. Feiler and I both created our own sets of said rules. I swear I hadn’t seen any of his before writing this, and I have decided not to change any of mine now that I have, or to toss my post entirely (which was my first instinct).

Instead, I strongly urge you to check out his column, “This Life: A Truce in the Bragging Wars,” in which his rules are grounded in expert advice and real reporting (something we do in our articles on NYMetroParents main site, but this blog—like most—relies more heavily on personal experience and observations).

(I was heartened to see that, while coming at this topic from different places, we ended up in similar territory. The one rule on his list that I wish I had thought to include: “Brag about effort, not accomplishment.”)

 

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you if you think bragging about your kids is okay.

Instead, please share: Tell us your favorite current brag about your kids (we’re a captive audience!).

 

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