Facing Your Own Bad Attitudes

Think about when you grew up:Were you ever jealous? What was that about? How long did it last? Did you keep it in or display it? If so, how? Were your parents aware of your envy? Did they ever talk to you about it?

Would those who know you well say you are a jealous person? Whom are you most envious of: Your spouse? A sibling? A friend? A neighbor? Why? What kinds of things are you most prone to be jealous over? For instance, is it about appearance, money, weight, clothing? Abilities, talents, possessions, or status? Do you voice your envies to friends? Your family? Your colleagues? How often do your kids hear you verbalize your jealousies? Do you do anything to try to improve those areas in yourself?

Our kids are most prone to display jealousy with siblings. Of course, much as you'd hope you aren't showing favoritism toward one child, sometimes we do so quite unintentionally, and the seeds of sibling rivalry are sown. So take a good long look in the mirror, and see if any of your attitudes and behaviors might be triggering your kid's jealous streak. Here are a few questions to help you assess how well you're doing in making all your kids aware of their own unique qualities and feel special in your eyes. Mark any potential problem areas, and then make a pledge to improve them. Get into your child's shoes for a minute, and respond how you think your child would answer:

□ Do you automatically expect more of your oldest child?

□ Do you coddle your youngest?

□ Does each kid feel like your favorite?

□ Do you avoid comparing your kids in front of others?

□ Do you provide opportunities for each child to nurture her special talents?

□ Do you openly listen to each child's concerns?

□ Do your eyes light up with the same intensity when you see each of your kids?

□ Do you schedule equal one-on-one time with each child?

□ Do you avoid taking sides whenever there's a conflict between your kids?

□ Do you pay equal attention to each child's hobbies, friends, school, and interests?

□ Do you set rules and expectations for each child that your other kids consider fair?

□ Do you distribute chores, rewards, and opportunities fairly among your kids?

Next, ask yourself if you might be comparing your child to other kids. Could your child be feeling as though he is being measured against other kids, and might this be where he is picking up this jealous streak? For instance, when your child shows you his graded work, do you ask the grades of the other kids? Do you ask him what his friends are doing over the weekend? What invitations they received? Which camp, sports, and music lessons they are attending? The bottom line is whether your child might sometimes feel he is being compared to his peers. Do remember that the nonverbal messages you give out—a smirk, subtle shrug, frown, or raised eyebrow—are just as powerful as your verbal ones. Take a serious look in the mirror at nonverbal cues you might be sending your kid anytime involving a discussion about his peers.

If the jealousy issue is predominantly a sibling rivalry problem, talk to your kids individually, and find out what they enjoy most (and least) about each sibling. It might help you assess what's going on between them. Ask if they have any suggestions that might improve their relationship. Is there a suggestion you could use? If so, what will you do to begin to implement the idea? What will you do to change your relationship with this child so he feels just as special in your eyes?

What will you do to be a better example to your son or daughter? Write what you will do, and then commit to doing it.

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