Read Chapter 1 of 'Jack and Jill'

As a parent, you already know that children crave attention; they want to be in the limelight, on center stage, and want you to see them there. Think of all the times your own child has constantly summoned you with "Look, look . . ." or "Watch me do. . . ." A child's attention-getting verbalisms may range from an insistent plea of "See, see . . . " to constant bragging and lying about feats never accomplished and roles that may have belonged to someone else. All kids are sometimes inclined to brag and inflate their prominence. Bragging is good, old-fashioned fun and necessary to a child's development. It's a child's tool for telling his "story." Indeed, "telling stories" is the generations-old euphemism adults use for labeling a child's boast about things that either never occurred, happened only through his imagination, or actually took place but with considerably less of the "spin" he is putting on them. Their involvement in the recounted events may range from only knowledge about them, to limited involvement of no importance, to full but undistinguished involvement. Hence, their need to give you their biased report.

Although your child's boasts may cause you to cringe and mildly or sternly admonish her to "tell the truth" or "don't brag so much," boasting, and the bravado that accompanies it, is usually a temporary phase of development. You need to realize, however, that no matter how short or long its duration, boasting — generally speaking — is normal and necessary for a child's healthy self-esteem. Usually, it succeeds in drawing to the boasting child the attention she desires. When she no longer needs to boast, she simply discontinues the practice. Admonishing her not to brag, may not make her stop sooner. Instead, try to discover the source of her bragging. Are you paying too little attention to her, whether you know it or not? Is the family structured, by accident or design, so that your children compete with each other and thus must flaunt their performance? Do all your children feel hugged-and-loved equally?

These are just some of the family dynamics that may inform you of the changes you may need to make if one or more of your children has a bad case of "the brags." Talk to your child about her school and other activities; really listen to how she describes them to you and what she says. Whenever possible, and as much as you can, watch your child as she plays with other children. Her being overshadowed by other kids or overpowered by their feats, on the playground or at the park, might be your clue to why your child feels the need to brag. Incessant and prolonged bragging is a sign that a child feels inferior. If your child makes a habit of bragging (one parent told me, "she brags like she breathes"), try to determine the source. What's happening in the home that makes her brag? What's happening at school that makes her brag? Where is it that she needs more kind, concerned, loving attention — home or school or both? What's not working for her at home or school?

Bragging is a temporary and healthy "yarn-spinning" phase most children go through to establish identity, become recognized, and bolster self-esteem. But it also serves to inform the child that language is powerful, meaningful, and when used in certain ways — inventing stories — gets the attention of grownups, at the least; at most, it frequently raises stature among peers.

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