Last night, I read this blog post about bragging. I should start out by saying that I really like Glennon, the author of this blog. But I strongly disagree with her thoughts on this one topic.
This quote sums up Glennon’s position on parents talking about their kids’ accomplishments:
. . . Craig and I have a steadfast rule – no bragging to anyone except each other or the grandparents. We used to allow ourselves to brag to our sisters, but now that they have kids, they’re off limits too.
Basically, our rule means that we keep our mouths shut in public and then we talk in bed about how our kids are better than anyone else’s kids in the whole entire world.
Glennon states her reasons for this as being twofold: Separating unconditional love from pride in accomplishment; respect for other parents. These are noble intentions, but I don’t agree that this is the only way to handle those things.
First, she’s absolutely right that pride and love can end up confused. However, our children still need to hear words of praise. I grew up with very little of that. I knew my parents loved me, but I never knew if they thought I was doing a good job. When I came home from college my second semester, having scored excellent grades, my father told me that I had done better than he had his first year of college—but that his major was harder than mine. It was a slap in the face; I had worked hard and achieved something I was proud of, but I still couldn’t expect so much as a “Well done!” and have it left at that. When my father tells me that he is “proud” of me now, I have a hard time believing it. He lives hundreds of miles away, has never met my daughter, and in fact has no idea whatsoever what I’m doing these days.
Expressing pride in our kids’ accomplishments can be taken too far, and they may learn to associate love with pride. But a well-placed compliment about the hard work we’ve seen them do can be significant. When our kids have poured themselves into something, heart and soul, we have no problem telling them we’re proud of them. When they’ve succeeded at a task, we honor that. We also make sure that we tell them, every day in multiple ways, that we love them. We show them, we say, “I love you,” we deliver affection. I don’t think that congratulating them on their report cards or dance performances is going to cause them to think we only love them when they do something big.
Second, I have no problem with friends who “brag” about their kids on Facebook and Twitter. I personally don’t put anything up about report cards, but I have no problem with friends who do. I love hearing about the things my friends’ kids are doing. I watch the videos of the piano recitals, I check out the photos from the dance recitals, I hit “like” when a friend’s kid wins the Pinewood Derby. I’m secure in my parenting and I’m proud of the things my kids do, which allows me to celebrate other people’s kids. Sure, I’ve seen parents who don’t handle this very well. There is no question that insecurity often leads to parents who make sure everyone knows their kids are better than everyone else. We’ve all seen the parent who asks for “advice” about their “genius” toddler or the person who never puts anything on Facebook except a lot of pictures of their kids’ awards. But those people are rare, and I remind myself that they probably do these things out of a fear that their kids might not be as good as everyone else’s.
Third, I disagree with Glennon’s perspective that we need to refrain from talking about our kids’ accomplishments out of respect for others. She probably doesn’t mean it this way, but when she says,
And every time I see someone post about their child’s seven goals, I think about my mama friends at home, struggling with their children who have Lyme, or PANDAS, or cerebral palsy, whose kids have a hard time making it up the stairs much less up and down a soccer field.
there is an implication that parents whose kids have Lyme or PANDAS or cerebral palsy have kids who don’t accomplish anything. This idea that somehow one kid being good at soccer takes away from another who isn’t is not only nonsense but hurtful nonsense. I have many friends with special needs kids. Believe me, there is a lot to celebrate, honor, and be proud of. And what about families with one child who is physically and academically capable and one who isn’t? Should those parents refuse to congratulate their child on her accomplishments because her sister might “feel bad”?
I’m sure she didn’t mean to be, but that last bit was self-righteous. Implied in those words was the idea that she, and only she, understands how hard it is for parents with kids who have special needs or learning disabilities. She isn’t looking at it from the perspective of a parent who is actually in that situation. I have a child with ADHD. It may not be physically debilitating, but it’s not easy to manage. Do I wish that he could be like every other kid? Sure, sometimes. Will it keep him from doing some of the things other parents brag about? Yes, definitely. But I wouldn’t change a thing, and I would never tell another mom that she shouldn’t tell the world about her kid because mine is struggling.
I think this boils down to a basic personality difference. Glennon’s life experiences are her own, and my life experiences are my own. She is free to do as she likes. My suggestion would be that if she is bothered by reading parent brags, she should consider not reading them. I hope my friends don’t stop telling me about what their kids are doing, because I’m still listening.
As for what we say when we talk about our kids, we should think carefully about what’s in our hearts. If we’re putting up a Facebook update about something our kids do, it should not be in order to boost our own egos or to cut down others. We should imagine how it will sound to others. Does it sound like we’re saying our kids are better than everyone else? Are we disguising bragging through asking for “advice”? Have we made it sound as though we’re merely relieved our kids aren’t turning out to be delinquents? What’s in our hearts when we share is just as important as what’s in our hearts when we tell our kids we’re proud of them. Other people should know how much we love our kids and that our love isn’t dependent on grades, awards, and goals scored.