You know that kid who just seems a little too cocky? He brags incessantly and acts like he is hot stuff. Playing with friends constantly leads to offense and hurt feelings. I hate to admit it, but I’m describing my arrogant son.
At first, we thought it was a fifth-grade thing or a preteen thing. We let it go for a while, but we started wondering if there was something going on beneath the surface. To get to the heart of the matter and ease up on the arrogance, we did these 4 things.
Listen to what he is bragging about. Is it academics, sports, possessions, or something else? If you can narrow down the topic, you often can get to the root faster—and the root is insecurity. For my son, it was always sports. He wanted to be seen as the fastest, strongest, and most athletic. And ultimately, peer approval is what he was really seeking.
Listen to the flow of the conversation. Are the other kids bragging too, or is it just him? Is it out of the blue, or is it in response to someone else’s taunting? Sometimes another child has a special ability to trigger the bragging and it becomes a contest.
Pay attention to the people he is trying to impress. Who is around when he’s bragging? Is there a certain friend (or even member of the opposite sex) who he’s trying to impress?
Once your observations have given you direction, ask questions about how he’s feeling. Make sure you do this in private; if insecurity is indeed at the core, he’ll be much more likely to open up if he knows it’s just between you two.
Hopefully, a natural discussion will happen, and you’ll be able to see where the bragging is coming from. Maybe he thinks he’s terrible at math. Or he’s been made fun of at school. Maybe he’s jealous of a friend’s success. Maybe he likes a girl at school and wants to impress her.
Talk about humility.
Society is partly to blame for your arrogant son. Humility is not something our society often talks about or reveres. Instead, we’re a bragging culture—just look at the t-shirts everywhere with messages like: “It’s not easy to be this cool” and “Train, Dominate, Repeat.” We build ourselves up, and up, and up!
My daughter’s golf coach used to say, “When you’re good at something, you don’t need to tell everyone. They already know.” I use this quote often! Or ask this: “How do you feel when someone is bragging a lot? Does it make you like and respect them more or less?”
Build him up.
A person who’s insecure lacks confidence. When something is literally insecure, it’s “not firmly fixed; liable to break or give way.” When you build your child up, he’ll remember that his worth is firmly fixed! It’s not hanging by the thread of his success or failure in football or his next math exam. He is loved unconditionally by YOU. He is designed and loved unconditionally by God.
Remind him about real friends.
Sometimes our kids get into a group of friends who are more concerned with competition and drama than friendship. Talk to him about the qualities of good friends, and make sure he also knows how to be a good friend. Remind him that true friends love him exactly the way he is, win or lose, through both the ups and downs of life.
Do you have an arrogant son or daughter? How do you teach your kids to be humble instead of prideful?