Dear Bracha,

I hate to even write this, but I am noticing some traits of selfishness in my daughter. She always was such a sweet and giving person, but as she gets older, she seems to have a feeling of entitlement. For the first time I'm seeing her compare how much she's being asked to help out and how much or how little attention or time she's getting from me versus her siblings. How can I teach her to be more giving and forgiving and happy for others in what they get without constantly thinking about her own entitlements?


It is so wonderful that you have been able to raise your daughter as such a giving person. From the "tilt" of your question I will make my usual assumptions, which I hope are close to reality.

It seems to me that you are talking about a child who is entering or in her teen years and has younger siblings. If such is the case, then your daughter's reactions are very normal. As children get older, they become more aware of things and make more judgments based on the information available to them. This is a good thing, in general, and is a sign of maturation. What a parent needs to focus on at this point is teaching context.

Let me explain: In the overall picture your daughter is seeing, there probably is justification for her conclusion that she is asked to help out more than others and is not getting as much attention as some of her siblings. From her point of view she is correct. However she has not been able to understand context or has ignored the mitigating circumstances that have led to this situation.

The fact that younger children need more help with things such as homework, bathing or bedtime may be getting lost in your daughter's new awareness. The fact that younger siblings cannot help out as much as an older more skilled child may also be overlooked.

Sit down with your daughter during a quiet moment and reach an understanding that will make her feel special. Part of that will be explaining to your daughter the how and why of her role in the family. There is no accident in anything, especially the order of birth. G‑d is very aware of who will be the younger child and who will be the older. This means that older children are meant to help raise and be mentors for their younger siblings for very special reasons. It also means that an older child will have more privileges than a younger child.

Let her know how much you appreciate her and have come to rely on her as a responsible and caring person. Let her feel your pride in her accomplishments and see if you can do more things together even if they are technically work, these are opportunities to bond.

Now, once you've explained this to your daughter, you too have an important point to consider: It is a fact that generally younger children are not asked to perform chores or take on responsibilities at the early rate that their older siblings were. There is a natural tendency to teach the firstborn to do things early; a situation that slows down with each additional child so that the youngest siblings often seem catered to and not included in the family chore system until very late, usually far too late. This will of course result in some resentment from older siblings, but it also hurts the younger siblings in that it delays their development in the areas of responsibility and maturity.

So you have to ask yourself—is your daughter right? And if so, how bad is the discrepancy in terms of responsibilities and attention? Weighing the factors as mentioned above: what are her siblings really capable of at their age and what are their real needs.

Another thought: All children want their parents' attention and this can be very difficult to deal with, especially in an active household with a lot of young children. Many children work some way of getting and holding a parent's attention, some of which are not pleasant, putting a parent in the position of necessity, in that he or she must deal with a situation immediately… With the result that the child who is good, considerate and more mature ends up being ignored. In terms of attention this means that the more problems you have or the more trouble you cause the more attention (reward) you get; and the nicer you are the less attention (punished) you get. Is that really what we want to teach our children?

Take a step back and look through your daughter's eyes for a day. Then decide if her objections have some validity. Next you will have to decide what you are going to do about it. All children need some attention and your daughter is clearly indicating that she feels she does not get enough.

Wishing you and your family all the best!