• Bowie Matteson

The Arrogant Child

Toe the line between self-confidence and arrogance in your kids.

“In data from 37,000 college students, narcissistic personality traits rose just as fast as obesity from the 1980s to the present. The rise is accelerating, with scores rising faster in the 2000s than in previous decades.” – Jean Twenge, Ph.D., San Diego State University and author of The Narcissism Epidemic and Generation Me.

A wave of ultra-competitive, "breakdown instead of build-up" rhetoric has come over youth sports. Bragging, shaming and an overall unrelenting need to be centerstage has kids building shallow friendships and turning into unhappy, poorly adjusted adolescents.

A study done at Ohio State University suggests that this trend owes to the over-valuation of kids by their parents. A tough pill to swallow for most adults but it turns out not everything your child does needs to be celebrated. With too much praise, kids learn that their value in the eyes of others is dependent on recognition. And while it's human nature to want to be valued and recognized, the gifts, pats on the back and treats should be reserved for things they've worked to accomplish. See: habits, milestones and effort.

Kids grow up believing they are exceptional with little to no effort. Thus, an expectation of result is built before the appreciation of the work. They don't understand the value of hard work because the standard has been set so low. The value of the effort that goes into achieving something great isn't understood because "great" has been used to describe menial things.

Then, when entered into mainstream society, these misled kids get scolded by frustrated coaches and teachers for not putting in the extra elbow grease. Socially intimidated and insecure, they resort to putting others down to make themselves feel up to snuff.

The value of the effort that goes into achieving something great isn't understood because "great" has been used to describe menial things.

Everyone has at least one of these people in their lives. Let's get to this issue at the source and lay the groundwork for kids to value a genuine effort and a yearning to continue learning and mastering.

First lets understand the difference between confidence and arrogance in our kids:

Arrogant kids are those who feel superior to others, dramatize their accomplishments, and believe they deserve special treatment.

Confident kids are those who have a strong but realistic belief in their abilities. (Read more about confidence in my previous post)

Do you see the difference? Arrogance is rooted in a fantasy dependent on what others are doing. Their status as "special" requires a comparison to those who they decide are not. Confidence is all about the "I", baby. True confidence is field tested. It requires little to no outside source, is born of your own work and experience and is used to fuel you.

Confidence is: "I can do this, I put in the work and have gotten a lot better."

Arrogance is: "That's not even that good. I can do way more than you."

Any parent, or someone working as a coach or teacher, needs to start re-establishing their values when they choose to pat Timmy on the back. Strike a balance between "everything you do is incredible" and "nothing is ever enough". We'll go over these values in the next article.

Like what you're reading? Share it! If you know a parent, teacher or coach who you think would like this, let them hear about it. If you have any questions for me, feel free to reach out via the website ( or my email,

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