As a parent I am riddled with self-doubt, therefore prone to second-guessing and overanalyzing every new obstacle thrown at me on this parenting journey. Like most, my fundamental desire is to raise happy children with intrinsic hearts of gold. So when faced with tough situations, I stew over the crucial next step, “what can I say to my child that will make them a good person?”
This is why I have a big problem with the oft used excuse, “they’re just jealous” when consoling a child who has been mistreated by another. My basic concern is that this shifts a child’s locus of control to others, dismisses the actual issue at hand, and teaches them to hide behind a façade of an excuse instead of empowering them with tools to deal with people who upset them.
Equally as concerning, I have daily interactions with adults who were raised with this mantra and as a result, are perpetually suspicious that others are jealous of them. They question basic motives, reject flattery as false, and brush off advice as meaningless envy. I cannot help but wonder if one is able to develop truly fulfilling relationships with the constant paranoia that others are acting out of jealousy. I cannot imagine that they are living with internal peace, happiness, or self-confidence. The very qualities I desire for my children.
Guiding a child into believing they are the envy of their peers is not a healthy way of boosting self-esteem, and completely negates the concept of personal responsibility. I prefer to approach the situation with a more empowering angle. Instead of blaming another’s cruel words on jealousy and sweeping the problem under the rug, I encourage the idea that my children have the ability to address issues that trouble them. Here is my typical course of action:
- Empathize with their pain, “that wasn’t very nice of them to say, I know it hurt your feelings”
- Reinforce that the message is wrong, “what they said is not true, your game is very fun to play”
- Highlight things that reinforce the truth, “your friends enjoy the game, you played it with your cousins for hours last week and had a great time, you and I laugh a lot when we play it together”
- Finally, praise them for talking to you about their feelings, and for the way they handled the initial situation, “it was very smart of you to come to me and I’m so proud that you chose not to be mean in return”
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