Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.

I Corinthians 13:4

Parents love to parade their kids.

From bumper stickers to videos posted online of the game winning basket, bragging exposes a parental mindset that views kids as projects to manage and to program.  It is not uncommon to see parents be more passionate about their children’s activities than even the child.  In addition, it’s oh-so-tempting to compare one’s kids to others in everything; when first steps are taken and first words are spoken;  their athletic performances as well as their academic accomplishments; who their friends are and even who invites them over.

Cute, aren’t they?

As a grandparent, I love to spout off about my own grand kids who are the cutest and the best in the world. (at least to me!)  And it is tempting to even brag about my adults kids.

Out of respect and thoughtfulness, we should however curtail inappropriate bragging and for the sake of our kids we should guard against excessive talk about their performance.  Kids will pick up from our comments what we most value and even grow anxious when they don’t feel they can measure up to our dreams for them.

Love does not parade itself and is not puffed up.

Paul’s analysis of love in 1 Corinthians 13 has nine elements. Last week’s blog was about envy which links nicely with not getting “puffed up.”  When we  choose to be glad for others instead of envious – when we are happy about good things that happen to others –   we are moved to lifting them up rather than parading ourselves.

Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

In reality this attitude is very hard to take on. One of the very most difficult tasks we do each year at school involves the selection of a small number of student ambassadors.  Each year the process involves denying some great students the chance to serve in this way.  Some of the denied applicants (as well as their parents) handle the disappointing news with grace while others are clearly upset, criticizing not only the decision makers but the chosen ambassadors as well.   Learning how to handle this type of denial without growing  jealous, as well as choosing to rejoice with their friends who are selected, is an exceedingly difficult thing to learn.  Yet, taking on this mindset serves to grow a humble, loving heart.

Are you genuinely happy for others when they get something you desire:  a job advancement, a new house, a car, more money?

How do your kids respond when their peers get something they wish they had: a higher test score, a position on a team, a role in a play, an award?  How do you respond as their parent on their behalf?

Teach your kids (by modeling for them) how to rejoice in the accomplishments and blessings of others.    Noticing what goes well for others shows that you notice and value them and not just yourself.   Self advertizement indicates a pride while lifting up others by our words and deeds points to a humble heart that is willing to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and not think about ourselves.

So here are some tips:

  1. Choose to be genuinely interested in and happy for your friend’s kids.  Allow your close friends and family members the freedom to share both accomplishments and struggles with you. Refrain from getting envious when your kids don’t compare well.
  2. Keep in mind the basics of social etiquette.  Be sensitive to who you share your own kid’s accomplishments with because you don’t always know about another family’s struggles and challenges.  The parent you are telling about your child’s gifted reading ability may have a dyslexic child or the parent you are telling about your child’s athletic accomplishment may have a disabled child.
  3. Restrict talk about your child’s successes and talents mostly to your spouse, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and your closest friends.
  4. Refrain from talking about your kid’s accomplishments in front of your kids.  They readily come to feel valued merely for their achievements – or when they live up to your dreams for them – and not for who they are as individuals. And they quickly pick up what is important to you.
  5. Model the speech you want your kids to develop.  Don’t self advertise or blow your own horn because your kids will learn to emulate it.
  6. Focus on character qualities – who your children are as people –  rather than their latest test score.  Say things like “she is such a kind-hearted kid” or “he is always quick to forgive” or “she works hard without complaining.” (especially when your kids are listening)
  7. Finally, don’t attempt to disguise bragging by masking it as a concern. Challenges do come along with unusually gifted children, but they don’t compare with the challenges that come with having a child who struggles to learn and perform.  Count your blessings and do not turn a wonderful gift into a worry that you spout off about to others.  It’s simply not palatable.

“Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is the God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

I Samuel 2:3