Why is my daughter jealous of her siblings?

Every child feels some jealousy toward her siblings. A younger child resents an older one’s abilities, privileges, and experience. A quiet child resents the attention her more outgoing or accomplished sibling receives. All kids feel at least temporarily jealous or siblings who have higher grades, newer shoes, more praise.

While some jealousy is inevitable, consistent jealousy comes from a child’s belief that she’s being treated unfairly, especially by her parents. Parents’ attitudes and actions shape the relationships between siblings. A child may be right about her treatment, or she may be misreading her situation. But as long as she thinks she’s being slighted, she’ll be jealous.

Kids are very sensitive to their parents’ words: “My dad always says my brother’s real smart.” “They don’t yell at her like they yell at me.” “What’s so great about Ben?” Parents at times give more positive attention to one child. Perhaps they feel that he needs encouragement or is temporarily vulnerable: “You did a terrific job on your math test!” They may feel proud of one child’s accomplishments: “Show Grandma and Grandpa what you learned in ballet.”

Sometimes, without realizing it, parents favor one child. They may believe they’re fair, but in subtle and powerful ways, they give great cause for jealousy: “Becky’s very organized, but Stacey is so messy.” “Matt is so much slower at homework than his brother.” “Thank goodness Katie’s such an easy child.”

When kids feel jealousy, whether justified or not, they may want to talk about it: “You always let her sit up front!” However, many parents get angry or won’t listen: “That’s nonsense!” “You have just as many things as your brother.” If a child gets in trouble for protesting, she’ll stop speaking up. If she believes she’s hurt her parents, she’ll also feel guilty for her negative thoughts about them. Complaining is too risky if it means making parents angry or losing their love. A child who can’t express the truth or who doesn’t fully understand her feelings will direct all her anger toward a safer person – her sibling – thereby reinforcing their rivalry.

Although family relationships are well established by the time a child is ten, there are constructive changes you can make if you want child to lessen sibling rivalry. The most important is to listen, especially if jealousy between your children is significant. Have them explain how they feel about your words and actions. Let them say what disappoints them. You may find this difficult, but when problems are out in the open, change is more likely to happen. If they don’t raise the issue of jealousy but you believe it’s a problem, initiate the discussion yourself.

Let them know that you’ve heard them: “You’re saying that things don’t seem fair in this family.” Listen to their suggestions: “I want you to tell me my work is good.” “You and Dad should come to my games more.” “Don’t always talk about Ian.”

Put limits on their rivalry: “While Mom and I are working on changes, we expect you to work on getting along better.” Tell them you won’t tolerate constant bickering. Sometimes kids struggle with each other because they haven’t been firmly told not to.

Honesty and openness will gradually enhance your children’s relationship. When your jealous child feels heard and sees that changes are being made, she’ll start to feel better about her siblings. During this time of change, you may want assistance from a third party such as a therapist or counselor. Even positive differences can be hard to accept or get used to.

While one of your children may be enjoying the attention you begin to give her, a previously “favored” child may have to adjust to a new situation. That child may have to learn to share your time and attention. Tell her, “We never realized your brother felt left out. We love you as much as always, but we’re trying to be fairer now to both of you.” You may find that your “favored” child is relieved to be out of the spotlight, just as a teacher’s pet may be glad to give up that title. It’s often awkward for a child who receives better treatment than others.

Think about the ways your children’s lives affect each other. As one child succeeds in school, another may need more attention. As one goes off with friends, the other may need support. Don’t expect the same behavior from each of your children. Try to create a balance so that, despite differences in age, interests, personality, and skills, each of your children feels special and important.

Finally, encourage them to be nice to each other. Praise their kind gestures, recognize the times they accept each other, and show them, by your words and actions, the benefits of an improved family relationship.

Picture Credit : Google