Managing Jealousy

About This Module

Jealousy is a normal emotion which everyone feels to some extent. WeParent believes that it is normal to experience negative emotions. It’s important for children to learn how to manage their negative emotions in constructive ways. You can’t stop an emotion, positive or negative. What we can do as parents is teach our children how to recognise and manage any jealous feelings. Parents who try to eliminate or suppress jealousy do not help their child to manage inappropriate behaviours when the child feels jealous.

Jealousy is a negative emotion which is not only upsetting for your child, but can cause them to behave in a way which upsets their friends and family. This module is designed to give you the steps to put in place to teach your child to manage their feelings of jealousy without acting inappropriately.

In this module, we will outline some effective strategies to help you help your child manage their jealousy.

What You'll Learn

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

  • Learn about fairness and the impact it has on jealousy.

  • Learn about social comparisons and the impact this has on jealousy.

  • Help your child manage and overcome their jealousy with our great parenting advice.

Psychology Fun Facts

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

    The emotion of jealousy is experienced when a child desires the relationship another child has.

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

  • Jealousy is a strong emotion felt by children when they feel their relationship with parents or other people they’re fond of are tested or they realise they have to share their relationships with others.

    Often parents don’t realise how important a relationship is to a child until the child becomes jealous. Negative emotions such as jealousy are an indicator that a relationship is important to a child and needs to be carefully managed.

    Jealous kids often become upset and withdrawn. They find it hard to say what’s bothering them, and they know that other family members are likely to object to what they’re complaining about. Children often don’t have the words to describe their own feelings so they complain about other people. A child might act out feelings of jealousy by hitting the person they are jealous of, taking their possessions, or saying nasty things about the person. Children who feel jealous often don’t have sufficient trust in anyone to say how they really feel.

  • Managing jealousy in children
    Children who feel jealous often become upset and withdrawn. They find it hard to say what’s bothering them, and they know that other family members are likely to object to what they’re complaining about. Children often don’t have the words to describe their own feelings so they complain about other people. A child might act out feelings of jealousy by hitting the person they are jealous of, taking their possessions, or saying nasty things about the person. Children who feel jealous often don’t have sufficient trust in anyone to say how they really feel.

  • Jealous outbursts can be demonstrated in unusual ways. Parents often first notice jealousy when their child misbehaves in a way that is otherwise difficult to understand.

    Parents can detect a jealous outburst when their child behaves badly towards a person they usually have a good relationship with.

    A child who is jealous might misbehave either towards:
    • The person they have a relationship with e.g. a parent.
    • Another child who is seen as a rival and seen to threaten their relationship
    • An innocent third party. A friend or even a pet who is not related to the relationship but the child is taking their jealousy out on.

  • A jealous outburst is not usually set off by misbehaviour of another person. Instead, it is often set off by especially good behaviour from another person that appears threatening to the child who then becomes jealous. It’s useful to identify what has triggered a child’s jealous behaviour, as the outbursts are difficult to understand if there is no information about what set it off.

Activity Time

Is my child displaying jealousy or envy?

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

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. 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 (focused on possessions), jealous (focused on relationships) or both.

    So where do you go from here?

    • If your child is showing only signs of jealousy, continue with this module.
    • If your child is showing only signs of envy, continue to the Envy Module.
    • If your child is showing signs of both jealousy and envy, start with the Envy Module, once completed come back to the Jealousy Module.

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