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Attitude Makeover: Arrogant

Emergency Attitude
Immediately stop reinforcing, putting up with, or encouraging your kid's overinflated notions about himself, or about you, or about your family. If you've been putting your younger kid on center stage to parade her talents and beauty (so that everyone "ooohs and ahhhs" her every breath), then cut it out! If you've become a "praiseaholic" each and every time your kid kicks a goal, says a funny joke, ties his shoelace, and swallows, cease! If you've been tooting your horn about your family's status, fame, and fortune so when people see you they run, call a halt. If you've been listening to your kid boasting and bragging about her every little accomplishment and encouraging her to do so too, end it. Then pass your treatment on to your spouse, siblings, relatives, and friends so they can apply the same treatment as well.

To rein in older kids' arrogance, confront them with specific tasks that challenge their limits, even provide the possibility of down right failure. You could put them in a difficult situation with a tough job to do, and also expose them to the true genius of someone who knows a lot more than they do. Examples are cooking dinner for a soup kitchen; sewing a quilt for the AIDS project; building a low-cost house with Habitat for Humanity or a similar organization; doing a daunting intellectual exercise with a math prodigy; experiencing a rigorous outdoor experience such as Outward Bound; or painting with a gifted artist. Choose an activity designed to help your kid recognize his limits, and create a rare humbling moment when he realizes he isn't the best in everything.

Bad Attitude Alert
Before you attempt to stop your kid's arrogant, "superior" ways, you need to consider where, why, and how this attitude evolved.

These questions will help you better understand why your child is using an arrogant attitude and figure out what's going on.

Why. Why is your kid arrogant? Think carefully about what may have caused him to have such a high opinion of himself – or might he be compensating for something he lacks? Does he really have something to feel superior about? Is he gifted in the area he professes to be so knowledgeable about? And what makes him feel he is so superior? Are you praising and acknowledging that expertise so much that he sees only his strengths and overlooks his weaknesses? Is an arrogant attitude something that is valued in your home? Or are you being too negative and critical, provoking this defensive reaction, this compensation for your withering attacks? Does he see others bragging unduly about their strengths, and so he is modeling their attitude? Or might it be that he is really trying to compensate for feelings of inadequacy? Another thing to consider: does he hear you bragging about his "brilliance" to others, and so he feels he needs to provide you with more things to brag about? Why did he develop such a know-it-all spirit?

What. Are there particular things he is more arrogant about? Is there a special subject or area of expertise that he tends to be more boastful toward – such as math, science, or vocabulary? If so, what is it? Is there a skill or talent he is more prone to show off: hockey, flute, weight lifting, or horseback riding?

Who. Does he display the same arrogant attitude to everyone: friends, the neighbor kids, teammates, a coach, a teacher, relatives, siblings, you, or your partner? Are there some individuals he does not use his know-it-all ways on? For instance: all relatives or some; all friends or just some? All his teammates or just some? Why are some spared dealing with this attitude?

When. Is there a particular time of day, week, month, or year when he is more arrogant? Is there a reason? For instance, if it is at a particular time, could something – such as a musical recital, spelling bee competition, athletic tournament, school debate, or report cards – be coinciding? Also, about when did you first see signs of this attitude? Was there anything happening at the same time that might have triggered his know-it-all ways: a move, an overly competitive school, a pushy relative, a certain teacher?

Where. Are there certain places he is more likely to be arrogant: at school or day care, on an athletic field, with peers, at a musical concert, at home, at a store, at Grandma's? Why? Or is he arrogant every place and everywhere?

Now take a look at your answers. Are you seeing any predictable patterns? Do you have any better understanding of your kid's arrogant attitude and where it's coming from?


From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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