Why Your Child Boasts

Appropriate Praise: Expert Tips

  • Set a good example. Your child learns how to behave by watching and imitating you, so examine how you react to your successes. Resist the temptation to put others down or to gloat. "It's important for parents to show that you can feel good about yourself without tooting your own horn or hurting others," says Mark Barnett, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Kansas State University, in Manhattan.
  • Provide appropriate praise. Although it's fine to compliment your child for achieving something that his peers are still struggling with, focus your enthusiasm on your child's efforts. Rather than saying, "You threw the ball farther than anyone else" or "You earned the most stickers," for example, say, "You really tried hard to learn that game" or "When I saw you on the field, you looked like you were having so much fun."
  • Help your preschooler consider others' feelings. If you hear your child boasting, "You can't do that, but I can," for instance, wait until after her friend has left, and say something like "It's great that you play ball so well. But how would you feel if Emily kept saying she was better than you?" suggests Barbara Edell Fisher, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist practicing in Commack, New York. "Then give your child an alternative, such as 'The next time you feel like talking about how well you play, tell Mommy and Daddy instead. We'll always want to hear it.'"
  • Finally, show your child that it feels good to give compliments as well as receive them. One way to curb hurtful boasting is to help your preschooler find ways to praise playmates, says Dr. Gorski. "You could say to your child, 'Yes, you are good at this game. But look how well Adam is doing too. He's really trying to learn how to play. Let's tell him how much he has improved.'" Preschoolers may not be ready to offer such compliments on their own, but they'll learn about respect and consideration from your good example. "You're helping your child learn to appreciate others," Dr. Gorski adds, "and that's a very important lesson."

Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the January 1999 issue of Parents magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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