Jealousy is an emotion that preschoolers are capable of expressing, often in a loud and boisterous way. A number of things can trigger jealous feelings in preschoolers, including things as mundane as watching another child play with a toy he wants and things as monumental as the birth of a sibling. Kids this age will show their jealousy in a variety of ways, and it is important for caregivers to remain patient while addressing the child’s concerns.
Causes of Jealousy
It is important to recognize that jealous feelings are a big deal to preschoolers. They have trouble understanding that it is possible for parents to love more than one person and may think attention parents give to siblings reduces the amount of love parents will show to them. Preschoolers welcoming new siblings are particularly prone to jealousy. Preschoolers also become jealous when other kids have things they want or are allowed to do things they want to do.
Every child is unique; your preschooler may not show jealousy in the same way her best friend does. Some children become aggressive while others may pout and seek to be alone. Some imitate or insult the people causing them to feel jealous. It is common for four- and five-year olds to start showing off in an attempt to gain attention and prove their superiority. Jealous behavior can seem like general misbehavior, so it is important for parents to recognize the underlying causes of their child’s actions.
Helping Your Jealous Child
Everyone feels jealousy on occasion. Disciplining children for jealous behavior only exacerbates the bad feelings they are experiencing. They often cannot control feelings of jealousy, so telling preschoolers not to feel that way can be confusing for them. Instead, give them extra attention and affection to reassure them that they are loved. Praise their good behavior, but do not compare them to others. It can be helpful to set aside regular one-on-one time with each of your children.
It is impossible to prevent jealousy entirely, but giving preschoolers practice sharing and playing with others will help them learn to deal with these feelings when they arise. Anticipating situations that might make your child feel jealous will help you prepare her for these feelings. Siblings' birthdays can be especially difficult for preschoolers because they become jealous of the attention and gifts their siblings receive. Help them work through it by giving them extra affection and jobs that will make them feel important, such as passing out the plates for cake.