It's pretty normal for kids to be jealous of their siblings, but it isn't pleasant for anyone while jealous feelings persist. Indeed, the Torah says that jealousy is a toxic emotion that "is the cause of the decomposition of a person's bones" (Proverbs 14:30). It is obviously an emotion that causes terrible harm. It's best if we can help our kids move out of this trait before it takes firm root in their personalities. An important tool for doing this is developing the "we" mentality.

The "we" mentality is a feeling of unity, as in "We Goldmans like to read on Shabbat" or "We Silvers love to eat popcorn!" "We" is group identification, a feeling of belonging to a larger system. It is an extension of "I" into a larger unit – in this case, the family unit. When a child feels a "we-ness" he or she feels less competition and more identification with siblings. "We" is an inclusive word rather than a word that causes separation and rift and therefore it is the word we want our children to be most comfortable with. While there will always be room for "I," there is also an important place for "we."

Parents can help their kids develop this group consciousness using a variety of techniques.

  • Use the family name when calling your kids. For instance, "I want all the Bergers downstairs for dinner right now please!"
  • Whenever one child deserves a reward, make sure that all the kids in the family benefit. For instance, Chani has "stayed dry" all night, so all the kids get chocolate milk for breakfast (This cultivates a "way to go, Chani!" feeling amongst the sibs).
  • Whenever you see sibling cooperation in action (playing or sharing nicely, for instance) comment on the siblinghood ("Wow, what sweet sisters you are today!").
  • Instead of one-on-one times in the family schedule, create group times. For instance, "it's story time for the little ones now" or "the big ones need some private time" or "we Shiffmans are having a picnic this Sunday."
  • Call all children under the age of 5 "my babies" as in, "How are all my babies this morning?" or, "What a delicious bunch of babies we have here." This helps toddlers and pre-schoolers stay "little" for a bit longer – until they tell you not to call them a baby.

Some children are born with more "jealous genes" than others and consequently removing this trait will be a little harder. However, even if it takes more time or effort, it will be worth it in the end. No child enjoys experiencing the pain of jealousy. Although it's not all in a parent's hands, anything the parent can do to help is beneficial. It is another step toward peace.