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By: Tammy Sassoon

Jealousy comes from a lack of gratitude. As parents, what can we do to solve the problem?
We can treat children fairly. What exactly
does that mean? I’ll bring down the famous
tale of “The Three Ralphs” to illustrate.

Once there was a husband and wife who decided that, once they had kids, they would treat all of their children the same. Their first child was a boy and they named him Ralph. Their second child was a girl, and they named her Ralph, too – because after all, they’d decided that whatever they did for one child, they’d do for the other. Of course, when this girl went to school, everybody made fun of her. It was not a pleasant life.

A few years later, they gave birth to another girl, and named her Ralph as well. So now they had a 10-year-old, an 8-year-old and a newborn all named Ralph! Since the newborn had a crib, a bottle, and a pacifier, the parents went out and bought cribs, bottles, and pacifiers for their 10-year-old and 8-year-old too. The story continues with many humorous details, and you can just imagine how unhappy the kids in this family were to all be treated the same. This story demonstrates just how silly it is to think that “fair” means “the same.”

We teach children from a very young age that “fair” does not mean the same. “Fair” means that everybody gets what he or she needs.We give our kids examples. We say, “If one child in the family gets a cut, should we give out Band-Aids to the whole family? No, that’s not sensible. If we do that, we won’t have enough Band-Aids when we really do need them.”

As adults, we understand that it doesn’t make sense to give everybody the same thing. I’d even go so far as to say that if we try to treat children equally, we would be giving them less. Yes, equal is actually less. Children sense the dishonesty in trying to treat them equally; even they know it’s simply not possible. Imagine that you are giving out cookies to a bunch of kids, and one child says, “I want the same exact cookie as him.” You try to look in the batch and find one that looks exactly the same, but of course it’s impossible, just as it’s not possible to treat all children the same or equally.

Here’s the correct way to go about it:

Child: “You gave him more than you gave me!”

Mother:“Oh, are you still hungry?”

Child:“A little bit.”

Mother: “Would you like a half of a cookie, or a whole one?”

The mother is responding to her child’s specific needs, namely the fact that he is still hungry. She is treating her child not equally but uniquely – which is what we must do as parents.

Next time we find our children fighting; let’s simply state what it seems each child needs. “I see. You wanted to play soccer because we almost never play, and you wanted to play basketball because it’s exciting that we have a new hoop.” Just demonstrating this level of understanding might be enough to lessen the tension.

Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow:When a child says, “How come my brother got X, Y, or Z?” our response should be, “Tell me what you need, and I‘ll see if I can help you.”

Tammy Sassoon is a behavioral therapist and parenting coach. She gives live workshops as well as “train by phone” telecourses to teachers, principals, therapists, and parents,
in order to help them gain compliance from even the most oppositional children.
She can be contacted through her website,