‘Everyone loves you until you become their competition’ – Anonymous
I’m sure we all can cast our minds back to when we were young and life seemed so unfair. It was hard to contain the emotions and even if you didn’t want to use a toy or eat the peas you didn’t want to be left out or miss out.
Most families aim to be fair and equal with their kids and it is distressing when a parent does their best to accommodate each child’s needs but ends up not satisfying anyone! Children get quite anxious around resources and their availability and it’s so frustrating for a parent that a child will notice whether their sibling has more peas on their plate (even if they don’t like peas) or wants to play with the same ball their sister is playing with – even if they have one exactly the same! So one thing is clear – giving everyone exactly the same amount does not address the issue of jealousy or insecurity.
Create safety and a guiding rule
Parents can create a safe feel in the family when they build in a guiding rule like a family mantra around sharing and resources. It settles the nagging question of, “What is the rule about this?” I suggest your family have a mantra along the lines of, “In this family, we share resources, take turns and know that sometimes life is fair and sometimes it isn’t”.
Find out what is special to each child individually
Secondly, let your children know that you are more interested in finding out what is really special to each of them so that you can meet that need. Your child may really like your one-on-one time at the end of the day so give them some extra minutes at bedtime. Your other child may love to help you shop for food, so you arrange to have just that child out with you. Maybe your youngest child is really keen to have family meetings to make sure everyone is doing their jobs. So you make this happen and let them be the scribe.
Gratitude and good virtues
Finally, work actively on the virtues that help children feel good about themselves. Gratitude is a good antidote to envy. Once a day each member of the family can share one thing they are thankful for that happened that day. And then nudge them towards being able to congratulate a sibling for doing something well. “You did a great job on finishing the cross country, Tim. I bet you’re glad you did that training.” This gesture goes a long way to helping a child accommodate their own loss. And this goes a long way to helping a child accept that life may not always appear fair.
Jenny Hale, Family Coach
The Parenting Place Improving and equipping families to thrive.
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