How to explain jealousy to children

Updated February 21, 2017

Children may experience jealousy in a range of different scenarios. Sibling rivalry is one of the most common forms of jealousy as is perceived favouritism in classroom situations. One of the problems with jealousy as children experience it is that it can cause them to act out in negative ways such as in hitting or name-calling and can cause them to feel bad about themselves. The more you can talk about jealousy with kids and the better they understand it, the less they'll manifest problematic behavioural reactions.

Assemble children together in a group either in a classroom or social setting. Create a situation where you reward one child more than the others. For example, you could ask one child to go to the board more often than others, you could give one child a treat such as a cookie or soda or you could praise one child's appearance, talents or intelligence without saying anything to the other children.

Continue to favour this particular child more than the others. Your goal is to provoke a reaction out of the other children, so you will most likely have to give repeated favouritism to this child to get the remaining children to react.

Identify and label the feeling of jealousy when children eventually balk or cringe at the alleged preferential treatment. Elicit a definition of jealousy from the children. Write down their ideas on a chalk or dry erase board. Eventually tell them that jealousy is a feeling of resentment that another person has got something that they feel they more rightfully deserve.

Explain that jealousy is a normal human feeling. Tell children that feeling jealous does not make them bad or evil people. Explain that it is important not to act out or behave badly when they feel jealous. Tell them it is more important to communicate their feelings and put their emotions into words.

Things You'll Need

  • Dry erase or blackboard
  • Dry erase markers or chalk
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About the Author

Lane Cummings is originally from New York City. She attended the High School of Performing Arts in dance before receiving her Bachelor of Arts in literature and her Master of Arts in Russian literature at the University of Chicago. She has lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she lectured and studied Russian. She began writing professionally in 2004 for the "St. Petersburg Times."