The more time my kids spend with other kids, the more natural opportunities I have to talk with them about what it looks like to be a good friend. I'll observe an event or behavior while they play with a friend and I make a point to pull them aside later and talk about it, focusing in on what a good friend does or doesn't look like in the observed event or behavior.
Just recently we had one of those how to be a good friend conversations in which we talked about "ONE UP'ING."
In my observation, Grayden's friend had something he was excited about sharing.
"I got a 100 piece puzzle!" he said.
Grayden's response, "I have a 300 piece puzzle."
Granted I do not think Grayden understood that his ONE UP'ING response was a form of bragging. I'm certain he just said the first thing that came into his head. But therein lies the problem: He thought of himself first. Instead of rejoicing with his friend with an "Oh, that's cool!" and then showing a kind interest by asking "What's the puzzle of?"... he didn't even acknowledge his friend's statement AND just turned the spotlight on himself.
Like the Penelope character on SNL, I see kids ONE UP'ING each other all the time. One kid shares about something he has done or perhaps something he has and another kid (a friend) turns it right back to himself stating what he has done or what he has. And most of the time the friend's response has a bragging, ONE UP'ING tone and nature to it.
This is not just a kid problem, there are adults who have a tendency toward ONE UP'ING. I confess I've been guilty of it many times.
I especially see it in conversations between parents. One mom shares with another mom an accomplishment her child has achieved and the other mom one-up's her with a, "Well my kid can do this" kind-of response.
The ONE UP'ING isn't always in relation to success, adults can try to one-up each other's difficulties as well. I often hear a stay-at-home mom share that her day with the kids has been especially hard and another mom instantly chimes in about how her day has been worse. "Well you're never going to believe what happened in my day..." she says.
This ONE UP'ING can ruin friendships. When one's habit is to one-up, it shows a complete lack of interest in another's life and shines a spotlight on one's selfishness. And frankly, who wants to be friends with someone who doesn't care about anyone but themselves.
I believe the ONE UP'ING I see in my young kids is more the result of immaturity and not having been shown or taught how to be a good friend than it is that they are just downright horrible friends. Though I do recognize their sinful nature makes them innately selfish. Thus, part of my responsibility as their mom is to make them aware of their tendency toward selfishness in friendship and to teach them what God says about being a good friend.
So what does He say about the topic?
First, we must take a look at Jesus, THE greatest friend that ever lived. Jesus taught: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:12-13
While they may not be dying for their friends, we can teach our kids to follow Christ's example by dying to their selfish desires...like the self-seeking inclination to one-up their friends in conversation.
Secondly, God teaches that wise living includes practicing the art of listening. He says to be "quick to listen, slow to speak." James 1:19 Furthermore He teaches that, "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Proverbs 10:19
We can teach our kids the value and wisdom in listening to others rather than just jumping in to give their two selfish cents.
Third, God teaches that we are to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15 This is the exact opposite of ONE UP'ING.
We can teach our kids to rejoice with their friends by letting them have their moment, as well as showing a genuine interest and celebratory joy in what they are sharing or doing. We can also teach our kids to mourn with their friends when they are sharing that life is tough and not to try and "take the brownie" by instantly sharing their own difficulties.
Fourth, and finally, God teaches that "Love is kind...it does not boast...it is not self-seeking." 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
We can teach our kids to be kind listeners. We can teach our kids to refrain from boasting in friendships. We can teach our kids to think of their friends before themselves.
Friends, we need God's help to teach and encourage our kids to be good friends. So let's pray for that help. And let's also pray that our kids wouldn't get into the habit of ONE UP'ING and that they follow the example of Christ and die to their self-seeking desires in friendships.
Will you help me teach my children the art of being a good friend. I pray for more of Your wisdom and discernment as I talk with them about following Your example in friendship. May my own words and actions in friendship be selfless and kind. Empower my listening skills. Make me keenly aware when I am ONE UP'ING and give me the strength to refrain from self-seeking comments in conversation.
And for my kids Lord, may they love others like You do. I pray they would learn to die to their own selfish desires in friendship. May they learn the value and wisdom in being quick to listen and slow to speak in friendships. I pray they wouldn't succumb to the selfish habit of ONE UP'ING. Rather may they be empowered by Your Spirit to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to mourn with those who are mourning. Give them the strength to resist the temptation to make everything about themselves. May their love for their friends be kind and free from boasting and self-seeking behaviors.