Short answer? Yes!
Envy. Jealousy. The green-eyed monster. However you shake it, your girl will naturally from time to time wish she could trade places with another girl to have the levels of success she’s experiencing. But before you dismiss your daughter’s desires, take a step back and realize that jealousy can often be channeled into ambition—pushing your girl to aim higher, work harder, and dream bigger.
“Of course some things, like another girl’s physical traits or the monetary wealth of her friend’s family don’t really translate this way,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but jealousy over successes—winning the school science fair or getting the solo in a dance performance can motivate your girl to try something new, develop a goal and work hard to attain it.” The important thing is to listen to your daughter and help her think through her feelings, where they come from, and what it would take for her to attain the kinds of achievements she craves.
So, the next time you notice your girl coveting another child’s trophy or feeling let down that she wasn’t named MVP of the weekend soccer match, follow these tips to help your girl rise above.
Help Her Get Perspective
Excelling in sports, science, or any other arena takes time and dedication. Is your daughter willing to put in the hours of practice necessary to improve and get to the next level? She might immediately think, “Yes!” but not realize that would mean putting another passion of hers on the back burner. For instance, your daughter might think she’d love to focus on gymnastics and start winning competitions, but would she be willing to spend less time with friends or even just relaxing on the weekends to make that happen?
“Everything has a trade-off,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald, “and focusing more on one thing will automatically mean scaling back on something else. She might decide in the end that she’s happier spreading her time across multiple interests rather than trying to specialize in one.” That said, she may decide that dedicating more time or resources to her goal is worthwhile—which will get her fired up to do the work necessary to make her dreams come true.
Encourage Her to Get Help
A little healthy competition can be a great thing in your daughter’s life, but you know what’s even better? Teaching her about the power of collaboration. If your daughter is determined to get better at a certain skill, suggest that she ask the girl who’s inspired her for pointers, or even ask if they could study or practice together. When your girl joins forces, she’ll likely learn a lot, gain or deepen a friendship, and see how they can rise up together. Additionally, she may want to get help from a teacher or an older sibling, or look for apps and websites that offer helpful tips and advice. Of course it’s possible to excel at something on your own, but it’s a whole lot easier when you’ve got support. Remind your girl that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign that she’s serious about improving and willing to do what it takes to make that happen!
Celebrate Her Talents
Some people are naturally better at some things than others, so no matter how hard your daughter tries, there’s a chance that she may never exactly match another child’s success—and that’s OK! “The girl on her soccer team with longer legs may be able to run faster than your daughter. That’s just physics.” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “But that doesn’t mean your daughter isn’t a valuable member of the team. Perhaps she’s excellent at passing the ball or is awesome at keeping morale up when things are tough out on the field. Let her know you see how hard she’s working and recognize her unique contributions.”
The last thing you’d want is for her to give up on a passion just because she didn’t get first place or get picked for a solo performance. Helping her see what she has to offer, and that some other kids might be jealous of her abilities can give her confidence and help her feel proud of her own accomplishments, even if they don’t exactly match those of her friends or classmates.