In the Bible, Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his sons. He had twelve sons under his care and he openly demonstrated that he loved Joseph more. Genesis 37:4 says “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.
This special love for Joseph over his other brothers, in addition to Joseph’s dreams which he shared with them, created a serious problem; jealousy and hate. Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. This is how destructive Jealousy was for Jacob’s Family.
This old story that has been told endless times, still has lessons for parents today. We must be guarded against making the same mistake; loving one child more than the other. Here are some tips we can all practice at home to ensure Jealousy is not encouraged.
- Ensure the needs of each child are being met.
- In meeting the needs of your children, sometimes it is necessary to prioritize. It may be necessary for one child to have a particular need met before the other. For eg: Sammy needs a new lunch bag because the zipper no longer works but Sarah needs a bigger lunch bag allowing her to pack her water as well. With limited finances, Sammy’s need would come before Sarah’s. In such instances, parents should communicate clearly to both children giving them the opportunity to learn how to prioritize and to put the needs of others first.
- Avoid showing more physical affection towards one child over the other. Of course we expect that a baby would receive constant hand-holding while a teenager would receive hugs; the physical affection must be appropriate for the age. We need to be also careful with the gifts. Avoid the “coat of many colours”, those extraordinary gifts given to only one child.
- Do things together, avoid singling out one child to spend time with over the other(s) unless there is a special need you are trying to address and special attention is needed. For eg: Have a movie evening when every child can be present or visit the Ice Cream Shop when every child will be able to enjoy an ice cream.
- Do not compare your children, especially in their presence. For eg: Marcel is very good at math but Michael is not. That’s completely o.k. The mistake we sometimes make is tell to Michael, “you need to do better in Math, Marcel never gets less that 75%”. Sometimes we even ask “Why can’t you do better in Math, like Marcel?”. Dangerous territory.
- Verbally express your love for your children when they are together, emphasizing that they are all special to you.
- Finally, when solving conflicts, be objective always looking at what was done wrong and not who did the wrong.
I am amazed by how much we can learn from these old true stories of the Bible. There is so much to apply to our lives as we seek to do better every day.
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