Nearly all kids experience envy. Here's how to help them handle it.
Whether it’s sibling jealousy or envy of another child’s talents or toys, nearly every child experiences jealousy.
“Jealousy is a normal emotion,” says Deb Cohen, assistant director of The Center for Parenting Education in Abington, PA. “But if your child is always comparing himself and looking outward for self-esteem, he’ll be swayed bywhoever is around.”
“Helping your child learn to handle jealousy will not only help him feel better, it can also help him get along better withothers,” says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, a Princeton, NJ psychologist and author of Smart Parenting for Smart Kids.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
Don’t try to talk your child out of his envy, says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. It probably won’t work.
“Children tend to get louder when they don’t feel heard,” she says. Acknowledge your child’s feelings instead. For example, say, “It’s hard for you to wait when I have to do something for the baby,” or, “You’re disappointed that David got picked for the part in the play, and you didn’t.”
“My son always liked art,” says Horsham, PA mom Renee Rideout. “But when he started elementary school, he would look at everyone else’s projects and say how much better theirs were than his own. Then he stopped wanting to do crafts.” Rideout told her son that she isn’t great at art either, “but I enjoy it so I do it because it’s fun, and if we practice, we’ll get better.”
Elementary-age kids “are quick to decide that they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at certain activities,” says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. “If your child is interested in sports, ask, ‘Who is the best baseball player in the whole country?’ Ask your child to explain why. Then say, ‘So, all the other players, who aren’t as good, should they quit playing?’ Ask your child to explain why not.” You can do the same thing for best actor, musician or other interests.
Most kids envy a friend’s possession at some point. Acknowledge that the friend’s video game system or designer clothes would be fun to have, but they aren’t in the family budget. If youapprove of the item, encourage your child to save toward buying it.
“You can also help your child build a sense of gratitude by helping others less fortunate,” says Cohen. “Point out that she may not have the new designer coat she had her eye on, but she does have a warm coat.”
Children often compare themselves with their siblings. Say what’s special about your child without making comparisons like, “You’re good at math and your sister is good at reading.” List concrete examples of things you love about your child without making comparisons like, “You’re good at math and your sister is good at reading.” List concrete examples of things you love about your child such as, “I love how you tell stories that make the whole family laugh.”
Susan Stopper is a contributing writer to MetroKids.