A Green-Eyed Monster has Possessed My Preschooler
The green-eyed monster of jealousy can raise its ugly head in all of us. Who hasn’t felt a tinge of jealousy when our loved one gives the attention we desire to another? That green-eyed monster can even possess our sweet little preschoolers, twisting their faces with pain and filling their actions with anger. It’s not surprising that preschoolers experience jealousy. After all, preschool children become very attached to their loving parents and even need that attachment to survive. So, when they see their parent giving the attention they need and desire to another, the green-eyed monster shows up. Preschooler’s also define themselves, at least in part, by their possessions, what they have at the moment. Some developmental specialists even say a preschooler’s identity is “bound up in their possessions.” So, when one preschooler takes another preschooler’s toy, the green-eyed monster of jealousy rises up.
Perhaps the green-eyed monster is not all bad. In fact, the green-eyed monster may be more informant than monster. He informs us of our children’s affections and love. He reveals our children’s need for “Mom and Dad.” He communicates our children’s fear of losing their parents’ attention, care, and comfort. Jealousy reveals our children’s potential insecurity in relationship to us (his parents). In other words, that little green-eyed informant reminds us that our preschoolers need us. He presents an opportunity for us to learn about our children’s inner world of emotions, fears, motivations, thoughts, and desires. He creates an opportunity for us to connect with our children and teach them important life lessons. How can we respond to the opportunity brought to our attention by the green-eyed informant? I’m glad you asked.
- First, sit back and take a deep breath. Realize that jealousy is a normal emotion. You do not need to squelch it, crush it, or push it under. Instead, strive to understand it and its source. Become curious and let this green-eyed informant teach you about your children’s affections, thought-life, and motivations. The more you understand your children, the better you can help them overcome their jealousy.
- Several emotions, like fear and insecurity, can lurk under and fuel your preschooler’s jealousy. You can help alleviate these underlying fears and insecurities by assuring your children receive the love and attention they need. I don’t mean you have to give your children constant, 24/7 attention. But, your children do need daily attention. They need to experience your delight in them. They need to hear you acknowledge them and appreciate their contribution to your life and home. They need to see you enjoy their company and presence. Delight in, acknowledge, appreciate, and enjoy your children every day. Then, when the green-eyed informant shows up, take the opportunity to do each of these things again!
- Teach your children to acknowledge the green-eyed informant and its underlying emotions. Help them label the emotions and talk about them. In order for your children to have the ability to talk to someone about their emotions or to calmly address whatever contributes to their emotional state, they need to possess the language of emotions. To rethink an emotional experience and gain a more accurate picture of how to respond or act on an emotion, your children need a language of emotion. Take the opportunity presented by the green-eyed informant to teach your children the language of emotion.
- Teach your children gratitude for “what they have” and “who they are.” Gratitude for what they have will help free them from grasping at possessions or longing for what someone else owns. Teaching children to recognize the blessings in their life will help them focus on the more important aspects of life, like family, friends, love, and life. It will help build their trust in a God who provides. This gratitude will decrease the frequency with which the green-eyed informant shows up.
These four practices will transform the green-eyed monster in your preschooler into a green-eyed informant, a friendly little guy who can help you grow closer to your preschooler and allow you to help your preschooler mature.