January 5, 2006

Flash: Bragging Parents Are Annoying

The NYT breaks the scandal today that bragging about one's child is an annoying pasttime of too-competitive upper-middle-class parents. It involves bumper stickers and soccer field taunts.

But if you're a first-time dad, is it ok? Or is that just how it starts: "I don't think people will want to hear about how your 7-year-old did in an exam or how good their penmanship is," [dad-on-the-street of a 7-mo Greg DeMammos] said. "You get more slack from having a baby."

The article gives a mention to Annette Lareau's book, Unequal Childhoods, in which "upper-middle-class" parents practice what she calls "concerted cultivation" while "working class" parents focus on "natural growth." The former involves a lot of explaining and structured activities, the latter, sounds like unsupervised play and a lot of TV. was definitely ahead of the curve with this one. Half-Changed World discussed the study way back in May. Her car probably has an "I SO blogged this before you" bumper sticker on it.

Honk If You Adore My Children


What is it with these NYT non-stories? It seems that most of the articles the Times covers these days regarding children have this undercurrent of animosity toward them & their parents--the stroller sidewalk hogs story; the out of control kids in the cafe; babies flying first class. Now--stop the press--we get this excellent story on parents bragging to much.

[Don't forget the "strange colic remedies from my nanny's home country" piece. For the record, that babies flying first class story was the Wall St Journal, whose readership would arguably be interested in such an alarming development. -ed.]

An annoying article, but if you get rid of most of the bragging talk, it only touches on what would make a better article: the one-upmanship of parents combined with some parents belief that their child is the bestest of the best. Sure, every parent wants to think that his/her little darling is the best player on the team, best doer of long division in her class, best reader, best everything, but a good parent is one who realizes that that's not always the case and tries to nurture the areas where his/her child may not be so strong and encourage the areas where he/she has a lot of room for potential.

Even 10+ years ago when I was graduating high school, there were kids whose parents complained to teachers/guidence counselors that their child deserved a better grade in that class(es) and therefore that grade had to be changed to an A otherwise little Johnny wasn't going to get into an Ivy. I can't imagine what the school scene is like now...good thing I still have 4+ years to my little one enters it...

Greg--you must have missed Dave Brooks' delighful column, "Pain, Agony, Despair: Flying with Children" in the Times. He does make one funny point--who is more annoying the parents shushing the kids or the kids themselves.

[ah, right. "BoBos In Purgatory." I'd blocked it out of my head. -ed.]

It's funny reading the article since in Chinese culture, many parents actually do the reverse. When other people offer compliments for their children, the parents actually point out faults (not in a negative way, if that's possible).

I don't have the bumpersticker, but now I want one. Thanks for the mention. (And the Lareau book is worth a read.)

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