Jealousy Among Siblings

Q: Our six-year-old daughter is very socially savvy — I don’t know how else to describe it. She’s tremendously helpful with guests; she can be very affectionate, and she truly loves the company of people. She can ask very mature, thinking questions, which adults find very charming. She can also “get away” with more by showing an innocent face (which her siblings can’t do as well).

She is independent and has very good self-esteem; she can play by herself, and not rely on her sisters and brothers to be there for her. At times, however, she is very self-absorbed and ignores her siblings’ requests by acting as if she did not hear them. If they are annoyed with her, she’ll just go on her merry way.

I feel that her siblings are getting to resent her, as she is clearly the most charismatic of the lot, and both adults and children run to her first when coming to our home. Her brothers and sisters seem jealous of her charismatic personality and the ease with which she goes through life.

What do you think is a good way to deal with this issue?

A: Many families have one child of whom others are jealous, whether because of that child’s ability to succeed academically with little effort or to attract friends easily. One teenager can seemingly eat whatever she desires and not have to think of food intake, while her sister needs to think of it constantly in order to avoid gaining weight. One brother may be the first boy picked for all the sports teams at recess, while his sibling is always the last one chosen.

Dealing with jealousy is a general challenge in life. In the beginning of Sefer Bereishis, we need not venture far to encounter Kayin and Hevel. The first act of murder reflects the level of anguish that jealousy of a sibling can arouse.

If one observes those individuals who do not seem jealous, the major trait they possess is an almost innate simchas hachaim. Some clearly work on being sincerely happy with their situation in life, and the end result is that they become excellent role models for their children. You and your spouse should give verbal examples of how to work on this excellent middah of being satisfied with your lot in life and how a person can transcend the natural knee-jerk response of jealousy. Clearly, parents are not meant to share their most personal issues with children or put themselves down unnecessarily, but there are enough examples of human frailty that can get the point across of how to deal with “understandable” jealousy.

In relation to adults who seemingly prefer the company of this child, you can suggest to aunts and uncles to speak to the other children when they come to visit. You can initiate this behavior by referring to something pleasant that another child mentioned about the visitor, showing artwork done by another sibling or sharing a meaningful anecdote related to another sibling. This will not resolve the problem, but will cause the other children to feel somewhat less resentful.

As to how your daughter ignores her siblings’ requests, you need to first ascertain if there is a reason for this behavior. Your six-year-old may feel that a sister is being bossy just to show that she is older, and this is part of an ongoing conflict. If there is no actual source for your daughter’s response, you need to discuss appropriate ways for her to respond to her siblings; “daydreaming” is not an acceptable excuse for ignoring others. You can create an “ahavas Yisrael” chart which will lead to rewards for respectful responses of siblings to one another.