Jealousy in Children

Kaitlin Harthoorn

Childhood Jealousy

The definition of being jealous can help us better understand jealousy and the unique form it takes in children. Jealous is defined as intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness. Jealousy is the state or feeling of being jealous. Jealousy has many negative effects. It can cause feelings of anger, hatred, rejection and revenge. Jealousy can be harmful to both the person with jealous feelings and any people he or she has jealous feelings for.

Identifying Jealousy

Although most people think of jealousy as a negative feeling, there is also a positive side to jealousy. It is inevitable that everyone will experience jealousy at some point in his or her lifetime. Successful people recognize jealousy and have learned to use this feeling as a way of enriching their lives. Learning how to control jealousy will take a lot of time and hard work and it is not promised to be easy. However, if responded to in the right way, jealousy can foster independence, a willingness to share, and an ability to accept others as unique.

Causes of Jealousy

There are a variety of causes of jealousy in children. A new baby in the family is a common cause of jealous feelings in children. Children may feel rejected and no longer important if a new baby is consuming the majority of the parents’ attention. The older brother or sister may respond negatively by throwing a temper tantrum. The older sibling may chose to be helpful by playing with the baby and enjoying being a good brother or sister. Another possible cause of jealousy in children is other kids’ possessions or talents. This can result in feelings of worthlessness, anger or loneliness. Divorced parents who have new partners is another root for jealousy. Children in this situation may feel that someone is taking the place of their mom or dad and taking the attention from the child. Possible negative reactions include temper tantrums, rudeness and demanding attention. A child can respond positively by enjoying being part of a family and getting to know the new person in the family. Another possible origin for jealousy is parents who don’t pay significant attention to their children. “Significant” is the keyword in this situation because children who do not receive significant attention from their parents will most likely experience feelings of jealousy. Parents can respond positively by spending more quality time with their children. A final cause of jealousy is a friend who is no longer a friend and this can lead to feeling angry, hurt and lonely. Children in this situation should respond by making new friends and learning to forgive. The numerous causes of jealousy can be dealt with either positively or negatively.


Parent Responses

It is vital that parents know how to respond to their children experiencing jealousy. The first step is to acknowledge the jealousy and let the child know that it is okay to feel jealous as long as they don’t respond inappropriately. The next step is to encourage and assert the child, highlighting the child’s strengths and talents. It is important that parents try not to punish their children for feeling jealous. Caregivers should teach the children under their care how to deal with their jealousy effectively. Parents can help prevent feelings of jealousy in the future by treating their children as individuals rather than equals. Children need to know that they are loved and cared for and parents need to take the responsibility to love and care for their children.