Jealousy is a very normal and very powerful human emotion and it’s an emotion that has been experienced by every human at some stage or the other. As adults, we’re mostly able to keep the green-eyed monster under control but for a child who has little self-control, jealousy may become a major problem. As such, parents should explore ways in which help their kids cope with the negative actions that are brought on by this primitive human emotion. For parents to do this, they will need to understand what jealousy is and why humans experience this emotion.
Jealousy sparks feeling of bitterness, anger and mistrust and the feelings are directed towards a person who has received a material possession or who has gained the love and affection of another. When the emotion is looked at from a child’s point of view, a wave of jealousy can be sparked by a friend who has received a popular and very desirable new toy, the arrival of a new baby, or when the child’s best friend befriends another. Humans were equipped with this emotion purely as a means to survive – when we were battling for food, space, and so on. Today, there is little need to fight for survival (in the primitive sense of the word) but we still experience that wave of unnecessary anger or resentment when somebody gets more than we do.
These feelings are perfectly natural and jealousy is not necessarily always a negative emotion. In fact, jealousy or envy has proven to be enough incentive for people to rise above their circumstances and achieve greatness. If kids are taught how to use jealousy as a catalyst for positive actions, an envious or jealous child will know how to regulate and control their emotions and how to turn the negative emotion into a positive one.
The bad side of jealousy
All kids, no matter how meek and how accepting they may be, will experience envy. As parents we need to acknowledge the emotion and help kids to deal with their feelings. For instance, feelings which are sparked by jealousy include anger and even hatred towards a friend who has received a brand new toy. Other common behaviours sparked by jealousy include aggression, seeking revenge (such as damaging the new toy) or playing up to get mom and dad’s attention.
Rather than feeding the negative emotions, parents should find constructive ways to deal with anger and the other negative emotions, such as explaining that perhaps their friend may be willing to share their new toy if they ask nicely, or if the child is prepared to do a few extra chores around the house, they can earn money to buy their own toy. Using jealousy as a means to motivate positive behaviour will go a long way in helping kids to accept that jealousy is a normal human emotion and can be used to achieve a positive outcome.
Parents must acknowledge that jealousy is a very real emotion and we all experience it but the trick to overcoming the proverbial green-eyed monster is how we react to it.
Boost your child’s confidence to reduce the feeling of jealousy
A child who is insecure and who lacks self-confidence will be quick to feel green-eyed and envious. A child, who is not given love and support at home, is bound to feel unworthy and unloved. In order to keep the pangs of jealousy at bay, parents should work on boosting their kid’s self-confidence. A child who feels secure and loved is not immune from feelings of jealousy, but they will be better equipped to deal with the feelings when they arise and will, in all likelihood, not act out on their emotions.
In addition to helping children feel good about themselves and feel self-assured, parents should strive to become role models for their children. When a colleague is promoted at work or when a friend becomes the proud owner of a chic and sporty motorcar (that you have always wanted), instead of bad-mouthing the colleague or friend in front of your kids, express your honest feelings of happiness!
Common triggers of jealousy for kids
The arrival of a brand new baby is enough to spark feelings of anger, doubt and insecurity in the older sibling. This small person is receiving their parent’s undivided love and attention, and friends and family are cooing over this tiny stranger. When parents and visitors make a fuss of the first born child, the feelings of anger and doubt will quickly disappear and when parents make a point of acknowledging the child’s feelings but reassuring the child of their continued love – the jealousy will fade.
Sibling rivalry – since the dawn of time, siblings have always competed for their parent’s love and attention and when one child feels that they are not receiving their share of the love and attention, jealousy will rear its ugly head. Showing favouritism and comparing siblings is a sure way to spark an attack, however when parents recognise each of their kids to be individuals in their own right and they are treated equally and fairly – jealousy may not totally vanish but it will, for the most part be kept at bay.
The new kid on the block – children are not particularly good at sharing and when a new friend arrives at school, it is natural for a child to feel threatened. This is very true when it comes to girls, who prefer a one-on-one relationship and usually have only one best friend. When the new child moves into their space, the threatened kid will of course feel resentment and jealousy. Parents can help by encouraging kids to form a group. If it doesn’t work out and the friend pairs up with the newcomer, rather than feeding the child’s sorrow and anger, parents could persuade their kids to look for a new friend.
Coping with jealous
Parents should not punish kids for displaying feelings of jealousy. However, if their jealousy leads to negative actions, the actions should be punished! In the long run, parents will find that it is more beneficial to accept that jealousy is a very normal human emotion and rather than seeing it in a negative light, they can turn it around and teach their kids positive and constructive ways to deal with situations that are the root cause of the emotion. Parents shouldn’t feed the negative feelings – support and guidance are far more helpful.
– Kathy Baron