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Jolie wants to dress like Kyla and Erin, but her folks just don’t have the money to spend on fancy designer clothes. Even if they did, Jolie is pretty sure her folks wouldn’t spend a hundred bucks on a pair of jeans, just out of principle. So Jolie wears her non-designer jeans and her no name-brand shirts and her anonymous shoes, and she knows that everyone stares at her and talks about her and looks down on her because she doesn’t have the fancy clothes. She also doesn’t have the fancy backpack and binder and the cool mechanical pencils with the cushioned grip. Her pencils have to be sharpened in the old crank sharpener on the wall, and she is pretty sure she is the last person in the school still sharpening her pencils. In fact, Jolie is pretty sure she is the only person in the school who is “doing without” while all the other kids have so much.
Sure, she wishes she had those fancy things, but what really makes her mad is that Kyla and Erin don’t even act like they care about their fancy clothes or their fancy backpacks or their fancy school supplies. Every time Kyla throws her backpack to the ground, Jolie wants to take it away from her just because she would never throw a $75 backpack on the ground. Every time Erin gripes about not getting her way, Jolie wants to scream at her because Jolie is sure she would never gripe if she had on $300 worth of clothes and was wearing fancy makeup. Jolie is pretty sure that Kyla and Erin have everything in the world going for them, and she has nothing. What is really keeping Jolie on the edge of boiling over is that they don’t act like the appreciate what they have.
Lunch time is hard for Jolie. She eats in the cafeteria and has her card punched for her meal. Kyla and Erin almost always have a homemade meal, and when they don’t bring a meal they have plenty of money to spend at the snack bar line. Jolie can just hear the lecture in her head if she were to ask her folks for $7 for a snack bar hamburger and soda. Jolie sits down with her meal and sure enough, here come Kyla and Erin. They sit down right beside Jolie and start talking. Jolie can feel her eyes rolling as they walk towards her. She just can’t understand why they are so nonchalant about all that they have. Jolie just seethes as she watches them unpacking their fancy lunches, and she can’t even fake a smile when they start trying to include her in the conversation. “What a couple of fakes,” Jolie thinks to herself.
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Jealousy is one of the purest and most prevalent forms
of preteen and teenage emotions.
Because our kids spend much of their time in a highly socialized environment, they are constantly comparing themselves to the other kids. They are constantly looking and watching and listening to see who has the latest and greatest and who doesn’t. And when they are in the “have-not” crowd, it is very easy for jealousy to become a problem.
The funny thing about jealousy is that it is a one-way emotion.
There are times when one kid will be trying to stoke the flames of jealousy, but more often than not it exists in silence – only in the heart and mind of those who are jealous. This can make jealousy an even more dangerous emotion than others, because it means it will often have to fester for some time until the person who is jealous either gets over it or blows up. Jealousy is also the type of emotion that is a starter for other negative emotions. Anger, self-loathing, depression, and meanness can all stem from jealousy. And the hardest part about all of this is that jealousy is based on perception. It is based on perceived sleights and perceived and transference intent.
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Kyla is a little take aback by Jolie’s grouch tone. All she said was, “Hey, Jolie. What’s going on?” What she got in reply was a rude, “I’m just eating my crummy cafeteria lunch, unlike you.”
Kyla doesn’t know why Jolie is so angry. She doesn’t know why she is being rude. In fact, she feels a little hurt by Jolie being so rude when all she was trying to do was be nice. Erin on the other hand isn’t as timid as Kyla, and when she hears Jolie’s rude response she jumps back at Jolie saying, “What’s your problem? Mad at the world again today?”
Now Jolie is taken by surprise. Why would they think she is mad at the world? Why would Erin say something so mean? Now all three girls are in a bad mood. Kyla has her feelings hurt, Erin is mad, Jolie is still jealous but she is also feeling like she put her foot in her mouth and is also embarrassed. All because Jolie was jealous of the other girls and she let her jealousy override her common sense and she said something dumb.
Jealousy has a great way making you feel sorry for yourself
and then saying or doing something dumb because of it.
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It is hard being a kid. There is always a smarter, better looking, more athletic, more popular, wealthier, better complexion, better hair color, better talker, better listener, better walker, better dressed kid. In fact, one kid can be the absolute genius of the class and she will wish she was the cheerleader. The cheerleader will wish she was smarter. The singer wished he had computer skills and the jock wishes he understood what the teacher was saying. Every kid looks at all of these other kids and is running a constant self comparison and then focusing primarily on the areas where they think they do not measure up.
So what can a teacher or parent do?
Jealousy is going to occur and comparisons with other kids will occur. But a great way of keeping jealousy from spreading and to contain it with perspective is to remember to build up each kid individually and point out that every single kid has something they do better or have better or say better or sing better than any other kid. You have to be able to prop up the confidence of a preteen or teen based on their positives and help them see that they have both intrinsic and extrinsic value. Then you have to carefully build this value and brag about this value.
Finally, as you are building up your kid or your students take great caution that you never tear down another in order to build up yours. Never use the flaw of another child to make yours feel better about themselves. All this does is convert jealousy to contempt and take a one-way emotion and offer it a platform to reach out in a hurtful way to another child.
Every day our kids will hear, from others and themselves, that they do not measure up. They just aren’t as good or have as much as others. Counter that with a constant flow of praise for that child while at the same time recognizing the gift of others and the wonderful nature of individuality.