Managing Envy

About This Module

As parents, we all want our children to play well together by sharing their toys and letting their friends and siblings play alongside them. However, the reality is, many children really struggle with their envy, which is the cause of countless childhood arguments.

We’ve all been harassed by our child for the same toy their friends just got, only to find they barely even play with it. This can be interpreted by parents as our child being ungrateful causing parents to feel angry. When, in actual fact, envy is an emotion that is starting to form as children leave their toddler years behind and, as with all emotions, it’s important we teach our children how to manage it rather than punish for it.

WeParent have designed this module to give you the steps to put in place to teach your child to manage their feelings of envy without acting inappropriately. Reducing hitting, arguing and other misbehaviours which impact on their parents and friendships.

What You'll Learn

  • Help you understand when your child’s behaviour is driven by envy.

  • Help you teach your child it’s ok to feel envious, but not ok to behave badly because of it.

  • Help your child reduce the negative impact envy has on them by learning to care and build pride in their own possessions.

  • Help you manage any ongoing envious reactions in a positive way.

Psychology Fun Facts

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  • It’s important to distinguish between the emotions of envy and jealousy as the approaches on how best to manage them are different.

    The emotion of envy is experienced when a child desires an object that another child has.
    The emotion of jealousy is experienced when a child desires a relationship another child has.

  • Envy is felt more acutely by children and young adults. The rise of social media has made the emotion of envy much more common as our children are exposed to their friend’s online lives more than children ever have been before.

Activity Time - Is my child displaying envy or jealousy?

Let’s start with a quick activity to check whether your child is exhibiting envy or jealousy.

Remember envy is directed at wanting an item and jealousy is shown towards relationships or skills.

  • Step 1: Thinking back

    Think back to when your child was playing with a sibling or friend and think about whether they were displaying envy or jealousy.

    Reflect back over a few arguments or disagreements and divide them up between envy and jealousy and use the questions in the table to determine your answers.

    We’ve given a few examples below to get you started.

    What happened?What did your child say or do?Is your child focussed on an item or a relationship?
    (Item = Envy and
    Relationship = Jealousy)
    Is this envy or jealousy?
    Child kept taking a toy off their brother.I want this toy, I want to play with it.ItemEnvy
    Children arguingJenny is my friend, not your friendRelationshipJealousy
    Your child broke another child’s toy deliberately.He wouldn’t share the toy so I broke it.ItemEnvy
    Child demands to sit next to Grandad and doesn’t want other grandchildren to sit with him.I get to sit next to Grandad, he wants to sit next to me.RelationshipJealousy
  • Step 2: Which emotion?

    Having reflected back, you can now recognise if your child is being envious (focussed on possessions), jealous (focussed on relationships) or both.

    So where do you go from here?

    • If your child is showing signs of envy, continue with this module.
    • If your child is showing only signs of jealousy, continue to our Managing Jealousy.
    • If your child is showing signs of both envy and jealousy, start with this module on Envy and, once completed move on to the Managing Jealousy module.


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