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Do Preschool Children Show Their Jealousy?

by Stacey Chaloux

During the preschool years, children begin to experience complex emotions, including jealousy. It is common for young children to struggle with feelings of jealousy when a friend has a special toy, when a new baby is born in the family or when they feel their parents are giving attention to other children. Without the ability to express exactly how he is feeling, your preschooler may show his jealousy with aggression, tantrums or other behaviors to try to gain your attention.

Reasons for Jealousy

Preschoolers are only capable of simple types of thought, and they have difficulty seeing others' points of view, according to Dr. Stacie Bunning, writing for GreatSchools.org. When your child's friend is playing with the truck that he really likes, your preschooler doesn't understand that his friend also likes to play with it. Instead, he feels that he should be the only one to use it. If you are visiting a friend who has a new baby, your preschooler may be jealous of you holding another child, because in his view, your only role is being his parent. You are the one who provides him love, comfort and attention, and he may believe that giving attention to another child means he will not get that from you anymore.

Sibling Rivalry

Though it is frustrating for parents who want their homes to be peaceful, it is very common for siblings to be jealous of one another at some point. Most of the time, this occurs because children are competing for your attention and love, according to HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. No matter how much you try to be consistent and treat your children fairly, preschoolers often believe that you are showing preference for a sibling, and they will get jealous of the attention their brother or sister might receive. This is especially true when the sibling is a new baby, who requires a lot of time and attention, and your preschooler is jealous because he now has to share the most important people in his life.

Jealousy Behaviors

Without fully developed verbal skills to express his emotions, your preschooler will often show his jealousy through aggressive behaviors or tantrums. Even though preschoolers are more able to control their emotions and are less impulsive than toddlers, their feelings can still overwhelm them. When this happens, you are likely to see your preschooler push his little sibling who he feels is getting attention or he may grab a favorite toy that his friend is using. It is also common for children to show some regression, especially when a new baby is born into the family. A jealous preschooler who was once doing many things for himself may want you to help him more often or he may mimic some baby behaviors in an effort to gain your attention back.

How to Deal With Jealousy

Since many of the behaviors a jealous preschooler shows are an attempt to gain your attention, it is wise to give your little one the most attention for positive behaviors. For example, when he is sharing his toys or treating the new baby nicely, praise him and tell him how proud you are of him. When he throws a tantrum or acts aggressively toward another child, remove him from the situation or tell him that the behavior is not acceptable. But, avoid giving him a lot of attention for the negative behaviors. Try to find ways to give him one-on-one attention during your day, especially if you are busy with a new baby at home. Talk with your preschooler about his feelings and label his emotions so he can connect with what he's feeling inside. As your preschooler gets older, he will be more able to cope with these feelings of jealousy.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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