I have two daughters a few years apart. They get along very well, but when one gets a present and the other one wants the same thing, it gets rough. I am not sure if I should be trying to always get them the same thing – if one gets a present, make sure the other one does – or try to train them to realize if one gets something one time the other’s turn will come a different time. What do you think?
This is a perfect “teachable moment!” It is moments like these that us parents should look for, so that we can teach our children life-long skills.
The feeling of “jealousy” or “disappointment” is a very natural feeling among all the other emotions. Children, just like adults, are likely to feel these emotions constantly. It is crucial for your children to be able to identify these emotions and then problem-solve accordingly (see Problem-Solving Sheet in the menu under Children). The earlier on they are able to correctly identify their emotions, the better off they’ll be in all their relationships.
*”All feelings are natural and they are all ok.” This is the premise that we teach our children. It is okay to feel jealous of your sister’s new doll.
*Validate your daughter. ”If I were 7 and my younger sister got a new toy, i’d for sure feel jealous too!”
*BUT – the question is, now that we can identify the feeling of jealousy, what are they going to do about it. Will they cry and be sad all day? Will they try to grab it away? Will they try to be happy for their sister and pray for a turn at one point? Perhaps they can talk to their mom about when will be their turn to receive a new toy…
After that, you can explore the consequences of each of those options. I like to write it all down on the “Problem-solving sheet” so it is clear for them to see.
So the lesson to be taught is “All feelings are okay. But it’s how we act on those emotions that counts.” The difference between a child and an adult, or an immature/mature person is how they deal with their intense emotions.
Next time, perhaps you might want to warn the girls in advance (even if done in private) and anticipate with them how they’re going to act: “I bought a birthday present for Adina today. I’m sure this will be very hard for you, Yocheved, since today you are not getting a new toy, and I understand that. It’s natural to feel disappointed when someone has something that you want. But how do you think you are going to handle this?” Have the child rate themselves on a scale from 1-10 on how they dealt with this emotion. If this is something that is often difficult for her, reward her (not with the toy– just yet!!) for even a bit of progress made.
This is actually one of the biggest gifts you can give your daughter