Envy and jealousy can cause destructive behavior in toddlers.

How to Deal With Envious Cousins

by Candice Coleman

Gift-giving events have become a waking nightmare: whenever your toddler gets a new gift, his cousins are looming on the horizon, ready to snatch it from his hands. Envy and jealousy are common feelings among toddlers, and it can often result in physically aggressive displays. Junior's cousins may resort to bullying behaviors or attempt to steal your child's belongings. Nipping negative envious reactions in the bud can relieve holiday tension and promote friendship between the cousins.

Watch your nephews or nieces for signs of bullying and envy: physical aggression or insulting your child may be an indication of envy. If these behaviors begin after your child gets a new belonging, it is even more likely that your nieces are burning with envy. Ask your toddler about any mean things that her cousins have done or said to her.

Ask your husband for his support: confronting a sibling or in-law about her children's behavior can be a recipe for disaster. Approach her when everyone is feeling calm and in a good mood. You might choose to say, "I wanted to ask you something: Junior told me that his cousin pushed him down and took his toy. Did your kids tell you anything about that?" Listen to her explanations.

Remain calm: if you did not see the squabble yourself, it is possible that your toddler has bent the truth about what happened with his cousins. Your sister may go on the defensive about her children. Let her know that you will encourage your child to share his toys and ask his cousins to play with their toys instead of displaying his envy with temper tantrums. Your course of action may influence your sister to do the same with her children.

Monitor future interactions with your child and her cousins. If any child shows a negative envious reaction, intervene immediately and suggest an alternative reaction. You could dissuade a child throwing a temper tantrum, for example, by saying to her, "Why don't you share one of your toys with Junior, and he will share one of his toys with you? I will set a timer, and then you can each get your toys back."


  • Immediately remove your child from any situation where his cousins may hit him. Do not attempt to let the children work out the problem themselves.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.

Photo Credits

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