By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | July 15, 2015
Everyone has known someone like this; the non-stop braggart with more tales of greatness than a hive has bees.
My mother had a friend who, when she pulled in the driveway, mom would groan and I wanted to hide. Gladys was actually a nice person if you could ever get her to stop talking about her daughter. At get-togethers you could watch her move about the rooms, butting in to talk about her daughter until those people walked away and then going to the next group to butt in again. According to Gladys, Nancy could do no wrong; she was brilliant and talented beyond belief. Nancy twirled and tossed a baton so well that their living room had to be redesigned to allow enough wall space for all of her hundreds of trophies. She twirled a fire baton at our county fair once and a mishap that could have left her scarred for life. Nancy attended a rival school and received A-plus grades in everything; she was surely going places in the world – she was perfect! *sigh*
The constant bragging made it seem as though Gladys stopped having a life the day Nancy was born and lived vicariously through her thereafter.
This is not about setting the story straight on Nancy; this is about parents correcting an annoying habit. There are many Gladys-type mothers (and fathers) out there that may not think talking about their children is all that bad. There are a few telltale signs that a parent is a braggart:
• They talk much more about their child than other parents.
• They have a difficult time talking about other children or other topics that are not about their child.
• They make other people uncomfortable by giving too much information about their child or family.
• They redirect conversation to their child or to themselves concerning their child.
• They tend to cut off other people’s conversation about anything.
Other parents seem to:
• Avoid them.
• Make excuses about leaving the area or not having time to talk with them on the telephone.
• Have full calendars so that no matter when the braggart wants to meet up, it doesn’t work with their calendar.
• Feel or look uncomfortable as the braggart continues to talk obliviously.
• Cannot seem to get a word in edgewise; when they mention their child, they are cut off and the braggart resumes tales of greatness.
There are people who completely miss or ignore social cues like body language and attempts to change the subject. They don’t understand why they have so few friends. My mother would never tell Gladys she was driving folks away so she usually gave her a short chore like peeling potatoes or watching the younger kids in hopes that the conversation would lead elsewhere. My mother wasn’t the only one experiencing this with Gladys, other friends expressed similar frustrations. But what can a parent do about a braggart?
Here are a few things to think about:
Realize that it is normal for parents to talk about their children. Sharing information and asking for input is the social norm. It is when the conversation is monopolized by one speaker that it becomes undesirable. Sharing milestones or major accomplishments
Conversation is a give-and-take process; chatting requires input from more than one person. In the Freehold Parents Anonymous group, we had a few parents over a matter of years that would sometimes monopolize group time. The facilitators and I discussed how to improve the flow of conversation so that every parent was able to use a portion of time. One of the most successful ways we found to curb the issue was to say, “Has everyone noticed how we get so engrossed in Xxxxx’s stories that we run out of time? Okay, it’s time to move on, next…” It was not judging a parent and brought attention to the sharing of time.
Comparing one child to another concerning skills or development is not good practice. All children are different; even siblings develop, learn and do things at different times. Just because one child reads by age three, it does not mean that another child is behind.
Mentally separate the parent from the child. An annoying parent who brags about their child should not affect how others treat or think about the child. Don’t blame the child for the actions of the parent.
Parents taking the credit for a child’s accomplishment can be even more annoying. Listeners can correct the bragging parent by saying, “Are you talking about your child’s or your accomplishment?” Sometimes bringing attention to the point can help a parent become aware of what they are doing.
Bragging has emotional and psychological roots that grow from an inner need. Parents and acquaintances are not expected to understand or correct another person’s issues. It is not your job to ‘fix’ anyone.
Grandparents often take bragging to a whole new level. I smile as I say that because I’ve known many who feel it is a necessary rite of passage when grandkids arrive on the scene. Grandkids change the rules… Think photo albums! With the myriad of technology at their fingertips, grandma and grandpa can brag until daybreak without skipping a beat. Bragging probably helps build those family ties we hear so much about.
When do you say ‘enough is enough’? Only the listeners can make that call. Is this a good friend or is it someone you have nothing in common with? If the friendship is worth salvaging then it may be a good idea to tactfully have a chat with the parent like this:
“Look, we enjoy each other’s friendship and I would like it to continue. But sometimes I feel as if you are competing with me through our children. For the friendship to continue in a healthy manner then the bragging has to stop. News is good; bragging is not. What do you say?”
The ball is now in their court. A habitual braggart may need reminding now and then if the hardcore bragging continues but if it doesn’t stop then it may be time to end the friendship. The choice:
“I am so glad we could continue our friendship; I appreciate how hard that was to stop bragging and truly want to commend your effort.”
“I’m sorry but our friendship is not working out for me; I wish you all the best.”
In the end we all want to have friendships that are healthy for us and our children. Be a good example for your friends as well as your own children. And if you see Clara headed your way with a photo album, run for your sanity because by now, Nancy must have several perfect children.
*I never use real names.
Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.
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