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The Ugly Side of Jealousy and How Parents Can Unknowingly Feed It

Jealousy is a feeling we have all had and at some stage, frequently have for various reasons. You can feel jealous towards a complete stranger, a friend, family member, work colleague, your own child and even partner. Yet there is an ugly side to jealousy that as parents, we can be unknowingly showing our children.

We all know the classic saying, ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and is sadly very common. This screams jealousy, rather than celebrate their achievement and be happy for them. Our kids look to us to learn how to cope with this feeling. How do they react? What do they do with the feeling they have towards this other person and their situation? Their reaction will be through learned behaviour from you, yes you, the parent. They will also be exposed to reactions from their peers, friends, family members and social media which is where the true ugliness of jealousy and ‘trolls’ come into play. Jealousy is a curse and in particular, when it starts to become between friends whether they be adults or children, it can destroy friendships.

Being a parent who has two children heavily involved in sport, I see many parents who are simply living through their own children and their sporting highs and lows. Not only pushing their children to win at all costs, but as far as berating them as soon as they get out of the pool to the point they are crying when all they need is a hug. Another classic is screaming at them from the boundary line, white line fever, as if they are the only person on the ground capable of taking the team to a win. These are the parents whose child is least likely to congratulate another team member or friend for playing well or winning a race. Why? Because they haven’t been taught to do that and don’t know how to be gracious in defeat. What can happen, is that feeling of not being good enough from the parent or sometimes coach, festers and pulls their self-confidence down. So how do they make themselves feel better, the old ‘tall poppy syndrome’ comes into play. Classic bully mentality, make yourself feel better by bringing those around you down.

As a teacher, I teach my students how to give compliments and accept compliments, embrace their strengths and weaknesses, acknowledge those who have strengths they wish they had all in aiding their self-confidence, risk taking and embracing themselves, warts and all! Listening to children tell others what they like about them is so powerful and seeing their faces light up when they hear what others have to say about them is gold. This what we should be teaching our children and doing ourselves. Openly acknowledge another child or person’s achievement rather than being dismissive and negative so that your child can see that it is ok to do it and it actually feels good.

Actions speak louder than words. When I see children compete against their peers and then congratulate each other on their efforts, that speaks volumes.

So next time you find yourself with ‘tall poppy syndrome’, stop and think about the person watching you. Your kids. Don’t model the ugly side of jealousy because it really isn’t a good look! Encourage and embrace everyone’s achievements, it is far easier and a much better look!

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