For a crash course in bragging, look no farther than a schoolyard. While a younger child's imaginative boasting ("I'm stronger than Superman!") is often endearing, a 6-or 7-year-old's one-upmanship can be downright obnoxious. Whether he's boasting what he knows to be true about himself, exaggerating it, or concocting it entirely, the goal is the same: to make himself look good.
"By the time kids reach grade school, they've acquired multiple skills," says Javier Aceves, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico Medical School, in Albuquerque. "It's natural for them to be proud of these achievements." But this is also an age when children take stock of themselves -- and their family and possessions -- to figure out where they fit in: Are they stronger, richer, tougher, luckier?
If your child continually promotes his own prowess, it's time to step in:
BE SENSITIVE TO SELF-DOUBT Excessive boasting often indicates insecurities. If he raves about his swimming, take him to the pool and assess his skills yourself. If it turns out he's not comfortable in the water, give him some pointers ("for fun"). Don't rub it in if he's not as talented as he thinks he is, but don't overfeed his ego either. "He shouldn't feel that every single thing he does is wonderful," says Martin Drell, M.D., head of infant, child, and adolescent psychiatry at Louisiana State University Medical School, in New Orleans.
TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF A braggart will benefit from your emphasis on effort rather than outcome: "You took your time and did a nice job on that drawing," rather than "What grade did you get?"
TEACH HIM TO ADMIRE OTHERS When a child starts comparing himself to his peers, it's the perfect time to nurture respect. Encourage him to appreciate their accomplishments: "Nellie sings beautifully. It's nice that you have friends with different talents." With your support (and a dose of maturity), even the cockiest kid can overcome his bravado.