Jealousy: 5 Ways to Minimize Competition Between Kids

My four-year-old daughter gives her older sister a hard time. She snaps at her for no reason, and she competes with her about everything. I'm tired of listening to the two of them argue. Why is she so jealous of her older sister?

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Jealousy is a powerful emotion, especially between siblings. The "baby" of the family often wants to be the center of attention and this can become an endless source of competition between siblings. On the other hand, some children are by nature more jealousy-prone than others. My daughter Madison has a scorecard mentality when it comes to her brother Max. Thank goodness it works in her favor because it encourages her to push herself harder and to expect more of herself. But jealousy can also wear a little one down, and prevent her from seeing the cup as half full. Here are five tips for managing jealousy and bringing harmony into home life.

TIP ONE: Treat each child as a unique person instead of equals. Parents often think siblings need to be treated exactly the same. However, when parents try to give the exact same amount of love, time and attention, kids become suspicion instead of satisfied. A child may wonder, "Did I really get as good a present as my sister?" Or he may complain, "Mark always gets to sit on the big couch." It's better to think in terms of treating siblings as individuals rather than equals.

TIP TWO: Avoid comparisons at all costs. Don't ask, "Why can't you clean up your room like your brother?" Or, "Your sister gets straight A's -- why can't you at least get B's?" Parents can aggravate feelings of jealousy by holding one child up to the other. Although your intentions may be innocent, a child is likely to hear the message "You love Johnny more than me." Lifelong resentments and grudges are born from making comparisons.

TIP THREE: Nurture unique qualities in each child. Promote different interests so that each child excels in her own unique way. When a child's special talents are recognized, it sets him apart from his siblings and builds up his self-esteem.

TIP FOUR: Make spending time alone with each child a priority. Kids treasure these precious moments. Schedule these times so they remain a priority. I guarantee that years from now you won't look back with regret that you didn't spend more time in meetings. However, you may wish you'd spent more time with your kids.

TIP FIVE: Set clear boundaries. Kids need to learn to respect each other. That means the oldest should not be allowed to tease younger siblings, while the younger siblings should be taught not to hassle older ones. Bedrooms are private places, and siblings should ask for permission before entering. Parents should be impartial when kids squabble occur, otherwise bickering becomes a way to get parents attention.

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