Helping Your Child Fend Off the Green-Eyed Monster

envious child

Is your child jealous? We all feel a little envious of others from time to time. Whether she's envious of her friend's iPhone, of a super-talented classmate who excels at dance, or even of a sibling who seems to get more privileges, kids tend to notice what others have, especially if they think they don't have it themselves. Too much jealousy can leave kids feeling inferior, overly competitive and unappreciative of the things they do have. Help your child get her jealousy under control to maintain a good balance and form healthy relationships.

Why Kids Get Jealous

Kids get jealous or envious for different reasons. Sometimes, the jealousy stems from a desire for material items that other kids have that they don't. Your child may feel left out because he doesn't have the latest video game console or the same cool new high-end sneakers that his buddy has.

Other times, kids are envious of the skills another child else. Your child might not feel as smart as someone in honors classes at school, for example. He might be jealous of a classmate who is the star of the football team. Perhaps he has a friend who is a talented artist, and he wishes he could have those same skills or talents.

Older kids might feel jealousy during social situations. A classmate might always seem to get all the attention or have more friends than he does. He might feel jealous and left out if he doesn't get invited to a birthday party.

If you have more than one child, your child might experience jealousy in the form of sibling rivalry. Your toddler could feel jealous of the attention his new baby sister gets. As they get older, kids sometimes feel that their parents love one sibling more than them. Kids might be jealous of their siblings' accomplishments. Younger siblings sometimes don't think it's fair that older siblings get more privileges or coveted possessions such as a cellphone or a car.

Listen to Your Child

When you're a kid, everything seems unfair. As a parent, you probably get sick of hearing your kids complain about how unfair everything is and how much they don't have as compared to their peers. Instead of hushing your child when she starts complaining, let her express herself. Everyone has little things to vent about, even if we're being petty or jealous. Give her the chance to get it all out. She may just need to vent to feel better about the situation.

Sometimes, she might express her jealousy indirectly. If she says, “Jenna is such a show-off. She's always doing cartwheels and somersaults at recess,” she may really be telling you she feels a little jealous of Jenna's gymnastics skills. Acknowledge how she's feeling, and help her work through her comments to understand that what she's saying is actually covering up those feelings.

Help Your Child Focus on Things He Has

Someone will always have more, whether it's material possessions, skills or talent. It's natural to feel a little jealous or want what someone else has. It's also important to learn to be appreciative of what you do have from a young age. If your child complains that everyone else has the latest technology and he doesn't, remind him that you have a warm, safe home and plenty of luxuries that people in other countries don't have. Volunteering in your community can also help him see how fortunate he is. Start a family ritual of sharing things you're grateful for each night at dinner. Doing so can help change your child's thinking toward looking for blessings in life instead of always wanting more.

Encourage Your Child to Work Toward Goals

Jealousy and envy can be used as a motivator to improve your own skills. If your child complains about a friend who is talented at something, suggest she set a goal to improve her own skills in that area. If she's jealous of a material possession a friend has, help her calculate how many weeks of allowance it would take to buy the item herself. Encourage her to save up her money to make the purchase. You might even encourage her to sell some of her old toys or do odd jobs for neighbors to earn money faster. This strategy doesn't work for every case of jealousy, but it can be a healthy way to turn envy into a positive.

Consider Your Own Jealousy

How do you stack up in the jealousy department? Even adults are susceptible to a little envy now and then. Maybe your colleague got a promotion, and you're still in your current position. Or, a neighbor got a brand-new luxury car. Perhaps, it seems as if all of your friends are going on extravagant vacations. Maybe your best friend is building a dream home.

It's natural to want things that other people have, but you may be unintentionally teaching your child the same tendencies. Work on showing gratitude for the things you have without comparing yourself to others. Practice being genuinely happy for people around you who receive or earn awesome things. Then, set your own goals instead of dwelling on being jealous.