Parents Who Run from Parents Who Brag Too Much!

Posted March 27, 2008 by

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Have you ever been trapped in a conversation with someone who goes on and on about their child’s achievements, ignoring every hint from their listener that they need to stop talking, RIGHT NOW? You know what I mean—you’re standing there, looking around the room wildly for help, cornered like a guinea pig in a cage, but you are completely powerless to run away…

I’m here to tell you, it happened to me.

My son started little league recently, and at his first practice I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in awhile. In fact, in the time since I’d seen him last, his wife and I both had kids, and so at first I was excited to talk to him and “catch up.” That excitement slowly turned to horror when I realized that this guy’s version of “catching up” was an endless stream of boasting about his son. At first I thought his devotion to his child was sweet, until I realized that he was not going to stop– or even allow the subject to be changed– for the next hour. During the course of our conversation, I learned that his child was a baseball prodigy, (and was forced to look at 25 grainy cell phone pictures of said baseball playing as proof of his talent) shown all his son’s homework from that week, and finally, the artwork he’d done at kindergarten. (Bragging Dad just happened to have all that stuff with him.) 20 minutes in, I tried to change the subject by saying, “Oh, my son’s really enjoying baseball, too. Aren’t the coaches great?” Shoom. Right over this man’s head, as if I hadn’t said anything at all. At this point I felt like my ears would start bleeding, so I excused myself and went (ran, really) to the bathroom.

When I got back to the bleachers, Bragging Dad was there, waiting for me like a great white shark with his son’s report card in hand. “Look at this,” he said, gesturing proudly. Then he went through each subject and grade in painstaking detail. (Right about now, you’re probably thinking I’m stretching the truth. The sad truth is, it really happened.)

Do you remember that old cartoon called Peppy LePue? It’s the one where the skunk (Peppy) keeps trying to corner a cat he’s enamored with, while the cat struggles to be free. In this instance, I was the cat, and instead of “amore” this guy was talking about “Jaden.”

Don’t get me wrong, his son seemed like a really nice little boy. And we all are guilty of bragging about our kids from time to time–it comes with the parenting territory. But what’s the deal with parents who brag non-stop? And how do you possibly get them to turn off the faucet? Seriously. Is there something you can say that would help them understand how hard it is to listen to the avalanche of praise being heaped upon the fruit of their loins? Sheesh.

As practice ended, Bragging Dad leaned out of his car window to tell me how many balls his son had hit that day, and then winked. Like, “Now you know my little secret. Jaden is a superstar.”

Sprayed by Peppy one last time on his way out the door.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. skunkpatrol Report

    So true, so true. Sometimes we just want to climb the walls to get away. Maybe these people didn’t get enough attention as children or something. They show a complete lack of decorum. Bragging is like farting – it might feel good but nobody else really wants to smell it.

  2. Disgusted by bragging Report

    I thought that the nonstop bragging might stop when perhaps the children reach young adulthood. I am a 50 something woman and have reentered the dating scene. I am mystified how many men in their 50’s and 60’s will talk nonstop about their adult children…perhaps talk an hour or more. I try and change the conversation to no avail… and finally I just make an excuse to leave….Are people really that insane that they think an almost perfect stranger wants to hear the droning boring bragging.

  3. Sprakles Report

    My sister-in-law has her own children do the bragging instead!!!! This is very annoying to my daughter as she does just as well if not better in school and on itbs test. I won’t let my daughter or son brag back!!! I figure let them think they are so superior. We know how desprate they are to be the shinning stars. Let them believe they are doing so much better. The truth is I think they can tell because my children don’t brag back nor I, that maybe they know my children don’t feel the need to.

    • Elisabeth Wilkins Report

      Dear Sprakles,
      I know what you mean — it’s really hard to listen to sometimes! I think when people brag a lot they probably are trying to feel better about themselves and are possibly hoping that whoever’s listening will be envious. I’m glad you’re teaching your kids not to respond in kind. My hunch is that your sister-in-law knows that your kids do well, which is why her kids are bragging in the first place. Thanks for weighing in!

  4. Henry Priebe Report

    I have had the distinct pleasure of reeducating bragging parents no sooner than they begin. First I do my home work on the kids on the team, kind of a scouting report. Before they get more than a couple of sentences in I begin to brag about the team. I go on and on about this kid and that kid. I have found that they soon excuse themselves to the snack shack or some other safe place. I don’t let them believe that their kid is the only one on the field. The fun part is other non-bragging parents join in with me to keep the braggers at bay. It’s great fun actually. I don’t have too many of the “Braggers” sitting near me or the other parents anymore. Baseball is fun again!

  5. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Charlotte » Honesty coupled with humor is probably the best way to deal with this–I think you’re right. There has got to be some way to talk to these Bragging Parents without being petty, especially if that parent is a friend or family member. (Because let’s face it, you can never escape in that case! LOL.) I had the idea recently to actually time someone on the clock. After ten minutes or so, you could say (not unkindly), “Wow, that’s impressive–a ten minute non-stop monologue on Jayden! You beat your record.” It all depends on how the person will take it, but I think that IF you can get someone to actually laugh at themselves, too, that’s the first step toward awareness.

  6. Charlotte Report

    Most of these blogs are filled with family issues. However, it seems as if the family members who brag are being tolerated not celebrated. Why is everyone so concerned about hurting their loved ones feeling when the majority of friends and family are uncomfortable in the presence of the braggers. Be true to yourself and tell them the truth about what they are doing and the way it makes you feel. Don’t include others unless they’re there with you to be included in the conversation. They may not receive it well, but who does in the beginning the truth always hurt. But in the end when it is received the bragger would have changed and will appreciate your honesty. What’t the worst that could happen they stop coming around or talking to you, well that’s an accomplishment at least you shut them up. This will give them time to self reflect and to be more wise about their approach and conversational pieces. If not you can listen and then at some point in the conversation let them know that they make your back hurt. If they ask why tell them it’s because each time you look at them you see them bending over back wards to kiss their own —–. That will break the ice and get family members LOL! Whoo what a way to recover.

  7. Kristine Report

    Yes, it is very hard to address. My in-laws are wonderful people and very easy to get along with – except my SIL, who is ALWAYS the fly in the ointment (I have secretly nicknamed her Hagatha!). There are usually six to eight adults and my two little ones at my MIL’s house every Sunday for dinner. She spends the ENTIRE time monopolizing the conversation with bragging and complaining. My husband has two brothers who have been married more than once, and their first wives always seemed to fight with each other. Because of this history in the family, my other SIL and myself try very hard to keep the peace. We are trying to be the better people, but the whole family actually has knots in our stomachs by the time Hagatha leaves! If anyone has any ideas of how to deal with her graciously and get her to shut up without causing complete chaos, please let me know, before we end up with ulcers! LOL!

  8. Wendy Report

    Carmen, I have been accused of being jealous and my son has also for not joining in on the wonderfulness of the other boy! I now just avoid this woman and her son like the plague and others are also. I understand the other comments about insecurity of the mom. I feel for her.

  9. Kari Sterling Report

    There were two women in a mothers group who had older sons (both in high school). In fact, all of ours were in high school–but were either freshmen or sophomores. Theirs were juniors and seniors. These two women went on and on (took up the WHOLE group discussion time) telling about how popular their sons are and how many dates they’ve been on. I sat through this two times–then I decided to move to a different group. DEFINITELY living vicariously through their sons. I don’t think there is a cure for that. It’s best just to leave without being mean.

  10. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    I’m glad to hear I’m not alone! I have to agree with Carmen–it’s hard to address this problem, because people think you’re jealous if you complain about their over-the-top bragging. For temporary relief, though, my brother had a good suggestion–bring someone else into the conversation and change the subject completely. The Bragging Parent will probably go off in search of other “prey.”

    Does anyone else have a good suggestion on how they’ve dealt with people who brag too much? I’d love to hear it!!

  11. Kristine Report

    My sister-in-law has this same affliction, even though her youngest is in her late 20’s! Not only is she a braggart, but she has to one-up every word that comes out of everyone else’s mouth! I literally have to whisper to my other family members out of her earshot to talk to them about any subject, especially my kids. If you talk about any little tidbit that your child accomplished, she immediately chimes in with “Oh, yeah? Well MY daughter…”. To add insult to injury, half of her stories are heavily exaggerated or downright lies! Even her one daughter comes right out with “yeah, right Mom…” and rolls her eyes. Even SHE knows her mother is full of it. Yep, my sister-in-law is really the life of the party… LOL!

  12. Carmen Report

    Have any of you ever found that if you don’t buy into the kids of these good meaning bragging parents that they accuse you of being jelous? Oh yeah! That’s how my experience was interpreted.

  13. Pam Report

    I really believe that parents who brag too much are the most insecure of us all. They are living vicariously through their childrens’ accomplishments. They were not praised or noted while they were children, so they overdo it with their own kids. I have a friend and when she starts braggin about her kids, her own kids actually roll their eyes and sort of laugh. They will tell her, “Yeah mom, I’m sure everyone is totally enthralled by my SAT scores, but can we move on?” She is sort of messing up her relationship with her own kids. But they are very gracious, and I think deep down that she does it because she is insecure. She thinks that if her kids are smart, everyone will think that it’s all because of her. Sort of sad, but understanding this has actually helped me to look at her in a different way. It really doesn’t bother me anymore.

  14. Peggy Report

    How about telling these people? If they had spinach stuck to their front teeth – you’d do it. I’d say, “Kids are great – I’m sure your child is every bit as wonderful as mine, but I’m not going to beat you over the head with it to convince you…” and walk away.

  15. Wendy Report

    !!!!! I am dealing with this right now! The bigger problem now is that the child has taken his mothers place, actually just joined in. He is constantly saying how much better he is than everyone else and how much money he has! My son used to be his best friend and now cannot seem to get rid of him! No one else wants to be this boys friend because its so annoying so he follows my son everywhere and just won’t quit. Any advice would be appreciated!

  16. KREP Report

    Keep it at home. I brag about my kid all the time……at home with my husband in a real quiet voice so my kids will know it is a secret that they should not hear. Like, “Dad, did you know that he took his lunch plate to the sink all by himself today. He is really taking responsibility well!” Kid thrives. Dad loves it. And I am absolutely positive no one else gives a hoot.

  17. Steven Report

    My brother and sister-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner talked about their kids’ achievements for about an hour, and I could not get a word in. After dinner, out of ear shot range of our guests, I mentioned to my sister-in-law that my daughter was hired to do a local TV commercial in our area. She looked me straight in the eye and said that I shouldn’t brag about my kid. Go figure!! Anyway I learned my lesson. It’s not the kids who need to get perspective, most time it’s the parents.

  18. Joan Report

    That kid is going to do one of two things: as he gets older he’ll start to fail at things just to get his dad off his back or he’ll develop an anxiety disorder trying to please him. Either way, the poor kids loses.

  19. Brooke Report

    There should be a federal bureau that investigates and temporarily incarerates parents that brag too much.

    I feel sorry for Jaden. That’s a lot of pressure for the kid. He probaly gets sick of his dad bragging about him too.



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