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“How the Child Thinks and the Way the Teacher Reacts” on Envy and Jealousy

Envy and Jealousy
Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own. Harold Coffin
Don’t waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. Mary Schmich

Envy and jealousy are very close in meaning: Envy denotes a longing to possess something awarded to or achieved by another: to feel envy when a friend inherits a fortune. Jealousy, on the other hand, denotes a feeling of resentment that another has gained something that one more rightfully deserves: to feel jealousy when a coworker receives a promotion. Jealousy also refers to anguish caused by fear of unfaithfulness.

Cradle envy:
The first object to be envied is the feeding mother. For the child feels that the mother possesses all that he or she desires and has an unlimited flow of milk and loves which is kept for his or her own gratification. Because of these feelings, the baby can add a sense of grievance, hate, greed and anxiety with the mother when deprived and can understandably become envy arising. At the same time, even the `Good Mother’ who satisfies a child’s needs becomes an object of envy because of the very ease with which the needs are gratified — for this gift seems so unattainable to the child on its own.

By age two to three years, the envious response spreads to include envy of other children’s activities or of the recognition they receive from others.

Jealousy and envy are really rather normal emotions in the lives of most of us – children included. While parents seem to understand that children may feel jealous at the arrival of a new sibling, there are plenty of other situations that seem to trigger feelings of jealousy and envy in growing children – children are growing up in a materialistic, consumer-driven world and although we may think them too young to notice, they may very well be responding to the differences they see between their own lives and possessions and those children and people around them. Have you noticed any children growing extremely jealous in your classroom over another child or when you may have given attention to another child more? In one school, it hadn’t dawned that a four-year-old felt envy when the teacher spent more time with another child because of a disability. All the child was seeing was that she was getting more time and attention from the teacher! “The teacher likes her best!” was the wailing complaint. Fortunately, the fact that the child was able to share how she felt gave the teacher a place to begin working on how to recognize and deal with feelings of envy and jealousy.

When envy has been successfully `worked through’ and is not overwhelming, the personality can develop relatively well. The gratification experienced with the mother figure stimulates admiration, love and gratitude at the same time as envy. Gratitude helps to overcome and modify envy and brings in the wish to preserve and protect the good object as also to share its gifts with others — what we call generosity.

Next week thoughts on Boasting and Lying! Other articles written can be found on “We Learn By Doing” website under Bill’s blog.

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