What do you do if your child shows off to others, whether on purpose or not? Here’s how to handle social situations when kids end up showing off.
“I read the most pages out of the whole class,” my six-year-old’s classmate announces to us. She continues with her accomplishments, particularly how far ahead she is compared to everyone else. My son looks to me, unsure how to respond.
“That’s cool,” I say. Later, after she left leaves, I explain to my son about showing off. It got me thinking how I’d want him not only to steer clear from showing off, but to respond maturely as well when he sees it.
But first, let’s talk about why a child shows off to begin with. As you’ll see, sometimes it’s not as obnoxious as it may appear:
- They feel proud. I know if I did something spectacular, I’d also want a lot of people to know.
- Their parents praise them often. With parents showering praise at home, it’s easy for kids to think everyone else will applaud just as much.
- They feel important. Some kids feel especially important when they have a significant achievement to show.
- They want attention. Something praise-worthy usually gets kids the attention they need and want.
What to do when your child shows off
How do you curb this behavior or have your child share achievements appropriately?
Acknowledge her intention.
Despite appearances, most kids don’t intend to show off. Your child may have gloated something cringe-worthy like, “I won first prize in the art contest!” to a friend who didn’t.
Still, beneath the showiness, she feel proud. Acknowledge why she may have said what she did. “You feel proud of your artwork, don’t you? I know you worked hard on that project,” you might begin.
Let’s say she shows off how many presents she received on her birthday. Even that has a root emotion beneath that you can address. You can say, “All these gifts make you feel special.”
Tell her how her words can make others feel.
So, you’ve acknowledged her intention and made clear you understand where she’s coming from. Next, explain how her words can make others feel.
Your conversation started with, “You feel proud of your artwork, don’t you? I know you worked hard on that project.” Then continue with, “We have to remember though that Alicia didn’t win a ribbon at the art show. I’m sure she’s happy for you too. But right now she might get hurt hearing about other people winning when she didn’t.”
Encourage your child to ask how her words affect others.
At this stage, your child is focused on her achievements—as expected. She probably doesn’t see how her words and actions affect those around her. Remind her to imagine how others might feel and how to choose her words wisely.
Encourage her to consider others before she shares her accomplishments. She should ask herself: Will this help others, or will it make them feel worse?
Teach your child to exercise judgment when sharing accomplishments. Discourage her from doing so only to make herself feel more important than others. For instance, praise her for considering other people’s feelings. Teach these values and social skills, not just a “win at all costs” or “I’m better than you” mentality.
She can always share her accomplishments with you.
We parents will never run out of the pride we feel for our kids. Let your child know she can always come to you to share her accomplishments. If telling her friends about the cool things she did isn’t a good idea, she can turn to you instead.
Model humility yourself.
Be honest: Is there a chance she copies your behavior when she shows off? Kids learn way more from what their parents do than anything we teach or say to them. Think about whether you’ve shown off how you bested someone else. Maybe you were talking to your husband and didn’t even know she was listening in. These words and actions still make an impression.
As with your child, keep your words healthy and respectful of others. She can better model the right behavior when she sees you do the same.
“My friends can’t tell time!” my son told me the other day. He’d been learning to tell time the and discovered his friends couldn’t do the same.
I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if he had shown off or not. Still, I acknowledged how proud he must be and said I was glad he could tell time. I reminded him to keep others in mind when he notices something he can do that they can’t. To ask himself whether what he says helps others or makes them feel worse. And I finished our little conversation with another round of “That’s awesome you can tell time!” to acknowledge how proud he feels.
Knowing how to respond can be a tough balance. We want our kids to feel proud of their accomplishments. We also want to encourage them to keep going. But at the same time, we also need to spot the times when they might cross the line of showing off.
Get more parenting tips:
- Are We Raising a Generation of Narcissistic Children?
- Is It Okay to Tell My Son He’s Handsome?
- How to Properly Use Praise to Encourage Your Child’s Potential
- 6 Mistakes Parents Make When Socializing Your Child
- 5 Easy Tips for Kids to Learn Empathy
Tell me in the comments: Have you noticed times when your child shows off? How do you balancing showing off with humility and feeling proud?