As a rule, children anticipate the birth of their siblings and share their parents’ joy until the moment the little one actually appears in the family. The world seems to be turned upside down: the baby keeps crying with mom dedicating all her time to it. Nothing is as it used to be. Naturally, child jealousy is inevitable in families with two and more kids, but it can manifest in different ways. Read about evident and hidden signs of child jealousy, and find out how to make it less stressful for the senior kids.
“Jealousy arises out of the fact that children love. If they have no capacity to love, then they don’t show jealousy”
Donald Winnicott, pediatrician, psychoanalyst
8 Signs of Child Jealousy
It doesn’t have to be aggression. Take a closer look at your kid’s behavior: if something has changed and it’s not connected with special events/diseases/personal problems, this might be the green-eyed monster to blame.
- Your first-born is always misbehaving, doesn’t know what he wants. Mood swings and bad mood happen more often than before. Yet, the kid doesn’t say anything bad about the younger sibling.
- Poor appetite and picky eating that was not present before.
- The kid suddenly ‘lost’ his skills, for instance, clothing oneself, and asks for help. Things that had been easy before have turned into a long and challenging process.
- Flare-up of a chronic condition (for instance, diathesis), or frequent occurrence of cold and acute respiratory infections in a kid without any evident reason.
- The senior kid doesn’t obey and acts contrary to what you say. Misbehavior is aimed to trigger parents’ anger and get their attention.
- The child starts comparing his skills or belongings with what other kids have. If there’s something missing, a kid may show disappointment or throw tantrums.
- A kid becomes overly possessive. That applies to both material things and attention from parents, friends, relatives. The kid isn’t willing to share what belongs to him.
- A kid may exhibit anger and aggression. He can start bullying friends or siblings, or try to harm them in some way.
In most cases, such behavior happens due to lack of attention when parents forget to show their love and communicate with the senior child. The side effects of child jealousy are unpredictable, but usually, there are two scenarios:
- A kid becomes too aggressive and turns into a bully. He tries to draw attention and doesn’t miss a chance to annoy other siblings.
- A child isolates himself from friends and family, shows helplessness. Sometimes low self-esteem is developed.
Parents’ love is the best remedy against child jealousy
Why does it happen?
There’s the whole range of factors that cause a sense of rivalry and negative attitude towards the younger sibling and parents. They include:
1. Too much pampering
If you don’t see the difference between pleasing and spoiling kids rotten, they start taking your attention and victims for granted. Besides, too much pampering makes up for the feeling of superiority to others. Whenever the kid sees there’s something between him and parents, he may start feeling jealous.
To top it off, too concerned parents impact kid’s self-esteem in a very unpredictable way. Suddenly left without assistance, a kid may feel jealousy to more self-confident peers.
2. Strict parenting
Such coin as the style of uprising has two sides, and here comes another one. Too strict and over-controlling parents also nurture resentment and envy in kids. They can start feeling inferior to their peers and friends because of living in the regulated and unhealthy environment.
Okay, we, parents do compare our kids. But number one rule is never discuss our kids in front of them. Do not let your kid know that he’s worse than siblings in this or that way. Explicit expression of your feelings may not only generate the sense of rivalry but hurt kid’s self-esteem and make a crack in your relationships.
4. Unhealthy competition
Again: do not compare. While healthy competition can be beneficial for kids, too much comparison might have a serious negative impact on their personality. Wherever you praise one kid for something, don’t forget to mention the achievements of siblings to show how much you love them all. Children don’t have to be equally good in one and the same field of expertise – everyone has special talents and skills.
5. Feeling insecure and forgotten
When a baby is born, parents’ attention switches to the little one. That makes the older kid feel abandoned, left without parents’ support, hugs and kind words. Do your best for the senior brothers and sisters to feel your support and affection. Don’t forget to dedicate your time to them and express your love as often as you can.
How to minimize child jealousy?
Dealing with child jealousy requires patience and a very delicate approach, or you can affect your child further. Here’s what you can do to deal with the issue:
- Spend time with your kid and remind them how much you love them. This is a must for eliminating aggression and envy for good.
- Listen to your kid, try to find out what his concerns and worries are. Jealousy roots can grow deeper than you think, so try to understand what causes sad feelings in your child, and address the issues timely.
- Stay patient. Don’t punish your kid for little errors – better try to help and support.
- Turn negative emotions into positive. Setting up a positive mindset is very important for dealing with jealousy. If a friend or a sibling is better than your kid in studying or something else, you should encourage him to do better and reach new heights. Instead of competing and comparing, a kid will funnel energy toward development.
- Emphasize the importance of sharing. When a kid learns to share his toys, books, and other belongings with other children, it helps to eliminate the feeling of jealousy.
- Stop comparing your kids with each other and peers – it creates a negative atmosphere and devalues a person. Children have their own talents, so find out what your kid is good at, and help them master the skill.
- Do not overpraise your child. We all adore our kids, but compliments and words of admiration should be appropriate.
I’ve also found a few useful tips here.
Child jealousy is almost inevitable in families with several children. However, you can avoid it by dealing with conflicts in a positive manner and sticking to the golden middle where your attention is enough for all siblings.
How do you deal with child jealousy in your family?