How to Teach Your Child Not to Show Off

What to do if your child brags in front of others, whether on purpose or not? Discover how to teach your child not to show off to other people.

How to Teach Your Child Not to Show OffWhat do you do if your child goes beyond being proud of herself to outright showing off?

Maybe she keeps talking about herself whenever visitors come over. She keeps calling for your attention, saying, “Look what I can do!” (never mind that she’s just catching a balloon or running across the room).

She might even flaunt to her classmates, announcing, “I read the most pages out of everyone!”

Meanwhile, you’re mortified at how she keeps going on about her accomplishments, unaware of how she sounds to others.

How do you nurture the pride and self esteem she feels while preventing her from bragging?

How to teach your child not to show off

Before we dive in, let’s talk about why young kids show off to begin with:

  • They feel proud. Even little milestones that seem small to us can feel like an accomplishment to them.
  • Attention-seeking. This is their way of getting your attention, whether your praise or even your irritation.
  • We praise them too often. If you tend to praise your child too much, it’s easy for her to think everyone else will applaud her just as much.
  • They model what they see. You might have told grandpa that your child is at the top of her class, which she might share with others with the same pride and gusto.

As you can see, her behavior is often not as obnoxious as it may appear. Still, how do you curb outrageous showing off and have her share her achievements appropriately?

1. Acknowledge your child’s 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 feels proud, which isn’t a bad thing. 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 say.

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.”

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2. Explain how words can make others feel

Your child might not be aware of how her words affect others. At this stage, she’s focused on her achievements—as expected. This would be a perfect opportunity to explain how her words make others feel.

You might say, “We have to remember that Alicia didn’t win a ribbon at the art show. I’m sure she’s happy for you, but right now she might get hurt hearing about other people winning when she didn’t.”

Remind her to imagine how others might feel and to choose her words wisely. Encourage her to exercise judgment and consider others before she shares her accomplishments. For instance, she can tell herself: Will this help others, or will it make them feel worse?

Discourage her from sharing accomplishments to make herself feel more important than others. And praise her for the times she considers other people’s feelings. You’re teaching important values and social skills, not just a “win at all costs” or “I’m better than you” mentality.

3. Describe what your child is doing

Let’s say your child keeps showing you something she can do over and over. After the initial “Wow, that’s cool,” you can also describe what she’s doing.

If she says, “Look at me!” you might respond with, “You’re doing ninja moves.” If she says it again, repeat your response as well: “You’re still doing ninja moves.” Each time you respond, go back to what you were doing.

Now, if she does do something praise-worthy, focus on the intrinsic rewards than external validation from others. You can say, “Wow, you built that tower of blocks? You must feel so proud of yourself—and you didn’t give up when it got hard!”

Why You Shouldn't Reward Kids

4. Model humility yourself

Be honest: Is there a chance she copies your behavior when she shows off?

Kids learn 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 spouse and didn’t 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 model the right behavior when she sees you do the same.

Conclusion

“My friends can’t tell time!” my son told me. He’d been learning to tell time and discovered his friends couldn’t do the same.

I wasn’t in the classroom, so I don’t know if he had shown off or not. Still, I acknowledged how proud he must have been 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.

That he should ask himself whether what he says helps others or makes them feel worse. And I finished our conversation with another round of “That’s awesome you can tell time—you must have worked hard to figure that out!”

Responding to a child showing off can be a tough balance. We want our kids to feel proud of their accomplishments and 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, from catching balloons to running across the room.

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