Do Parents of Gifted Kids Brag?

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No one likes a braggart. I don't care who it is or what they are bragging about. It's just unpleasant to be around someone who is always bragging. It is equally unpleasant to be accused of bragging when you aren't. This is accusation is leveled at parents of gifted children incessantly and it's often done in the most hateful and hurtful (not to mention ignorant) ways. Here are a couple of examples of people complaining about the bragging done by parents of gifted kids:

What does it mean to brag about something?

Before I go any further, perhaps a definition of brag is in order.

Miriam-Webster defines brag as "to talk boastfully." Not very helpful. What does boastfully mean? It comes from the word boast. The verb boast means, according to Miriam-Webster, "to puff oneself up in speech." Now we're getting somewhere. This is what some people think parents of gifted children are doing when they talk about their kids - puffing themselves up.

Human nature being what it is, it's possible that a few parents of gifted kids may puff themselves up as they talk about their kids, but I never met any. I have, however, met a few parents who have puffed themselves up when discussing their child's accomplishments in sports, which seems to be acceptable. Honestly, though, most parents who talk about their child's accomplishments in sports aren't puffing themselves up any more than parents of gifted kids when talking about their children.

They are simply sharing information about their lives. It's often a kind of small talk people engage in when they find themselves sitting next to one another at some function or another or at some location like a library.

It's the tone and intent behind the comments that determine if a comment is someone's attempt to puff herself up.

And since we aren't mind readers, it's often difficult to determine someone's intent. Too many people simply assume that whenever the parents of a gifted child speaks of her child, it's bragging.

Why do parents of gifted children feel compelled to talk about their child's accomplishments?

Good question. If you aren't the parent of a gifted child, you are most likely going to assume that the reason is that brilliant little Suzie's mommy just has to share all those accomplishments with other people - to puff herself up, of course. For the most part, that is an incorrect assumption. Then why do they do it?

They talk about their children for the same reason other people talk about their children. You talk about your daily lives. Just because the daily life of a family with a gifted kid is different from that of other families doesn't mean the parents are bragging. They aren't trying to "puff themselves up." It's called conversation. We talk about our daily lives in an attempt to get to know one another. We can be interested in what other parents have to day about their children. Why can't we get the same response from other parents?

They talk about their children to share their excitement over some achievement or another.

ANY parent does this, no matter WHAT the achievement is. Whoever is in earshot may be among those who get to hear about it. I may not be too excited that some neighbor's kid made the varsity football team at the local high school, but I will listen politely and not consider it bragging when she shares her excitement with me. I'm happy for her and her kid.

But here is a reason most people never, ever consider: we are sometimes puzzled by what our children do, particularly in the initial stages of gifted parenting. The puzzlement may be mixed with a bit of awe, but there is an element of uncertainty.

Did our child *really* just do that? For example, my son read his first word when he was just over two years old. I never used flashcards. I didn't teach him to read. The most I did was watch Sesame Street with him. That's it. But one day out of the blue in an unfamiliar neighborhood from the sign on the front of an unfamiliar building, he read the word bank. I quite literally couldn't believe it. When we got home, I wrote different words down on paper - to test my own sanity - and showed them to him. He read them all. Granted, they were easy words like mommy and home, but somehow he knew how to read them. You bet I told people about it. To brag? Nope. To make sure I wasn't going crazy.

This puzzlement does continue in some ways and it is difficult to avoid using the "g" word, or if not the word itself, then some of the attributes that define a child as gifted. For example, if my son was reading at a third grade level at age 5, why was he having trouble with reading in third grade? (He wasn't. The teacher lied.) I wasn't bragging about my son's reading abilities. I was trying to understand what was happening.

Getting Support

Parents of gifted children may also talk about their child's abilities, not to brag, but to get support. It can be lonely and overwhelming to be the parent of a gifted child. We more often than not have to fight tooth and nail to get the academic services our children need. Many parents, after years of trying, are unsuccessful and end up homeschooling their child. How can you get what your child needs if you can't discuss what your child can do?

Next time you hear the parent of a gifted child talk about her child, stop and think about what she is saying. Listen carefully and make sure what you hear is actually bragging. Maybe she just wants to talk about her child - like we all do. Or maybe she's looking for support. Don't be so quick to judge.

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