I have a ten-year-old child who is my fifth child his brothers, and there is a big age gap between him and his older brothers. When he was born, all his brothers treated him hospitably and affectionately. He is a very smart and quick-witted child, with high level of linguistic and scientific intelligence, and splendid athletic skills. Two years after his birth, we had a new baby girl, who was also received with great hospitality from all family members. Despite simplicity with respect to her requirements and the way she thinks, it has a very attractive spirit, perhaps because she is tolerant, friendly and loving to all people. This has led to expansion of people’s love for her, which affected the psyche of her brother, to the point that the first sentence he wrote in his life was directed to her, where he wrote to her: “I wish you a peaceful death oh …” and wrote down her name!
It did not stop at this, but his younger sister attended the same school he goes to where she made friends with many children, and almost everyone loved her, while her older brother was unable to make friends, and after that he suffered from enuresis or bedwetting. In addition, he constantly assaults and despises her and even insults her and always describes her as stupid, frivolous and despicable. But the matter gets worse as he deliberately wakes up while she is asleep and sleeps when she wakes up to avoid even seeing her. I am extremely worried that the relationship between my ten-year-old child and his younger sister has reached such a serious degree of jealousy that it amounts to hatred!
I do not know if I have the right to consider this as a big problem, especially that their father tells me that this is normal and that time contributes to treatment in such cases. I am worried about my little boy; sometimes I feel that he lacks realistic thinking, tends to be unreasonable in his flights of fancy. I took him to a psychiatrist who said that he needs behavioral treatment by engaging him into sports and mental activities, but unfortunately we cannot afford these activities at all or take him here and there. Are there easy and proper solutions that we can afford?
Dear sister, we do not want to attempt to reduce your fears nor just describe this age stage as difficult, because jealousy is inherent in human nature. It may be positive, benign and desirable, and it may be negative, harmful, and undesirable!
Jealousy is considered a desirable and positive aspect when it generates honest competition between children at home or among people in the same place, such as the personnel of a company or an institution. Without the positive competition among personnel, there would be no production, development, improvement, or creativity.
On the other hand, the negative, abhorrent jealousy destroys the soul, undermines efforts, happiness and social relations; and impedes sincere brotherhood in many cases. It leads to envy, hatred, backbiting, violence and sadness. It is strange that we are responsible for both types of jealousy, positive and negative, in terms of training children or fueling their feelings in different degrees!
In this context, there is a very important study by Jordanian researcher Dr. Andy Hijazi, a professor of educational psychology, where she states that jealousy may develop into psychological or cardiac diseases, and may start from the early stages of life, which causes deprivation of a person’s energy, effectiveness, and vitality; and the worst thing is that it may continue with a person as a chronic disease, throughout his life.
What are the causes of fueling feelings of jealousy among children?
The first reason: injustice and inequality
The parents’ inequality and injustice in dealing with their children in all respects, such quality of their clothes, tools and stuff; in showing of feelings of love, affection and sympathy; in kissing, embracing, smiling and caring looking; and in good care, gifts, presents and expenses, are the main reason and the biggest driver of feelings of jealousy between brothers, as the son’s feeling of injustice and inequality between him and his brothers at home instigates a psychological revolt inside him. Therefore, the feelings of jealousy become more acute for a child whenever parents differentiate between children in everything, where the feeling of injustice increases, and feelings of jealousy further develop and grow, and adversely affect the friendly relations between brothers at home. Furthermore, jealousy may cause continued differences between brothers, and lead to hostility and permanent hatred.
The second reason: the comparison between children
The comparison between children is one of the worst mistakes the parents commit, which may take place before the two children only, or in public in front of people, by praising one child without the other. A parent may keep praising one of his children without mentioning anything positive about his other child, a situation that is repeated over and over again, which constitutes psychic complexes to the neglected child, which over time turn into feelings of jealousy, hatred, aggression, or isolation and despondency.
The third reason: excellence and distinction
When a child that his brother is superior to him in a certain aspect, such as his superiority in his school attainability, appearance, good manners; his distinction in skills, or talents, such as drawing and sports; or love of people to him, raises his feelings of jealousy, which if treated properly from an early age, the child would be used to love the good for others, and accept differences and distinction among humans, and to learn that perfection in everything belongs to Allah alone, and that no one has got everything, but every person excels in one side, and does not excel in the other, and he must thank Allah for all his blessings, and not to envy others.
Signs of jealousy among siblings (one or more of them may exist)
Siblings’ quarreling is one of the clearest and most violent manifestations of jealousy. Some children, especially the older, may not openly express their rejection of discrimination and their feelings of jealousy from some of their siblings, due to their parents ’way of dealing with them. However, this becomes apparent through their actions that may lead to conflicts and psychological tensions at home, in addition to practice of violence with others, assaulting his brothers; and beating, screaming at, and insulting them.
Crying and showing obstinacy
Crying and showing obstinacy often appear in the younger brother, when the little brother cries for the most trivial reasons, while showing stubbornness, beating his head or hands against the wall or the ground, and throwing his stuff nervously. All these aspects indicate, in many cases, the child’s feelings of jealousy, often as a result of the birth of a new baby in the family, where he feels as if the new-comer will take his place. He always cries and screams loudly for any reason, such as failure to meet his requests quickly, or because he fell on the ground, or to take something of his stuff. It often happens that the mother does not know the reason for this crying, stubbornness, unhappiness and the mess the child causes, but if she reviews her behavior and the way she deals with her children, she will certainly know.
Shyness, introversion and alienation from family
The introversion and avoiding mingling with others are among the worst consequences of jealousy that a child can reach. At a time when parents imagine that their child is just playing in his room and practicing his hobbies there alone, and fail to pay him attention, thinking that he is just calm and meek while he is extremely suffering from an inner psychological problem that he does not know how to express or openly tell his parents about, such problem may worsen and turn into psychic complexes, resentment and hatred for others. The neglect of the parents of their alienated child is very dangerous.
Parents do not know that jealousy at a certain level may eliminate the child’s fun, activity and vitality as inherent characteristics of his childhood, and that this convergence has a negative impact on the future of the child, as he becomes afraid to mingle with people, which reduces his self-confidence and opportunities of success in life.
Obvious behavioral problems
A child who has feelings of jealousy and rage shows visible behavior such as biting nails, enuresis or bedwetting, messing around in the house stuff causing chaos, or pretending to be sick in attempt to draw attention and get closer to his parents, and attract their attention and sympathy. Unfortunately, his attempts often fail, as a result of the parents’ failure to listen to this child unlike his brother(s), which leads to exacerbation of the problem of jealousy among them, that may continue even when they grow up, where the feelings of jealousy and resentment grow with them; and sometimes hatred or divergence and estrangement between them, and the situation continues even after they get married and each of them has a home and a family! It may even increase further after that.
How to reduce feelings of jealousy among children?
Dear parents, try to do the following as possible: to reduce feelings of jealousy among your children, and to enhance their self-confidence and love of each other:
Justice and equality between children
Justice and equality between children are the main and most important reason for solving the problem of jealousy. Justice among children in all material and moral aspects is required to heal feelings of jealousy among siblings. Therefore, do not show love and affection for a child without doing the same to the other child, even if he is in need for this due to suffering from a disease, a disability, or a psychological or physical problem. Also, do not differentiate between them in treatment or gifts unless you explain to them the reason for this extra interest of one of them and the other child was convinced.
Dear parents, you should show love, affection, honor, respect, and position in the family and in your heart on equal basis, whether in word or deed, especially for the son who suffers from excessive behavioral or nervous disorders, or from stress or psychological problems. Remember how the brothers of prophet Yusuf, ‘Joseph’, (peace be upon him), deluded that their father loved Yusuf more than he did to them, so they hurt him and tried to get rid of him by throwing him in a deep, dark well. Allah Almighty says in Surat Yusuf, Verse: 8, “When they said: ‘Truly, Yusuf and his brother are dearer to our father than we are…”. Therefore, beware of your unequal behavior and feelings while dealing with your children.
Distribute tasks and responsibilities among your children
Share all your children with some tasks and responsibilities that make them feel they are equally loved, cared for, and embraced by their parents, and increase their self-confidence, and support their path in life. Therefore, do not make responsibilities a heavy load on some children, excluding others, on the pretext of their capability or their age, otherwise you will be one who causes division and jealousy between your children.
Prepare your older child for the arrival of a new baby
Do not focus all love on the little baby, and neglect the older child. Therefore, you have to prepare the older brother to accept the arrival of the new baby, and teach him how to love him. For example, when you buy some clothes for the new baby, also buy clothes for the older brothers; because they must understand that what you do to the little baby indicates that you love him more than you do to them. Accordingly, they feel that the new baby has taken their place with respect to your love and attention, and some of them may try to harm him or neglect him and deny his existence, as Prophet Yusuf’s brothers did to him.
Listen to all your children
Listen to all your children, to their opinions, problems, and thoughts, especially teenagers, and do not limit your listening to one of them without the others, and respect their opinions. Listening to your children increases their confidence in your love for them and reduces feelings of jealousy and envy among brothers, especially if you equally do so with all your children during dialogue sessions. But if you listen to some of them and respect the views of older children, for example, without paying attention to the younger ones, then you fuel feelings of jealousy and rage among them, and will be one of the main factors for jealousy and may be hatred between your children!
Instill trust and love in your children
Parents have the responsibility to instill mutual love between brothers, so always remind your children that they are brothers, and that they should care for each other, and that you love them all equally. Tell them that everyone has got certain talents that he has to improve and develop. Parents should also focus on developing the talents of each child separately to instill self-confidence and trust in his abilities and develop them so that they would not fade away over time.
Never compare your children with each other
Comparing children with each other is a major cause of jealousy. Never compare one of your children with the other in front of brothers, or in front of others, not even within yourself, because each son has his own talents, abilities, capabilities, inclinations and goals in life. Comparing children with each other is one of the most frustrating reasons that arouse feelings of continued jealousy and hatred among siblings. Never attempt to say: “My son X is more intelligent than my son Y”, or “When will you become like your brother?” Or “You do not master anything. Just look at your brother and learn from him …”. These scolding expressions are fatal to talents, abilities and feelings of love between siblings. On the contrary, you have to instill and boost self-confidence in your children by praising each of them for his advantages, abilities and talents.