They seem to be born that way, always looking over their
shoulders and comparing their lot with others. They are
unhappy people, constantly thinking they are being
discriminated against or treated less well than everyone
else. If they are like this as children, it is unlikely that
they will outgrow this trait unless the parents can jolly
them out of the main gripes which they have. Adults may have
to resort to professional help if this thinking becomes an
One can pick out these children who feel they aren't as good
as their siblings, and who always feel they are being treated
inequitably. They demand constant attention, yet however much
they receive, it is not enough. If two children in the family
need a new pair of shoes, some mothers will buy this child a
pair at the same time, even though his still fit, for the
sake of avoiding complaints that Mother loves the others more
than him. This will not work, as he will still find something
to complain about. Either that the shoes are not as nice or
that the others were more expensive or...or...
The percentage of girls who carry this chip around with them
is much higher than that of boys. They are the ones who grow
up and still feel that things are not fair, that they are not
appreciated enough and not admired at all.
This is basically the root of the trouble. Their self-esteem
is low. Thus all the pandering to their wishes cannot help
them. Their self-esteem has to be enhanced. A young woman was
complaining that all her brothers and sisters-in-law were
invited to the parents' house far more often than she and her
husband were. It was no use explaining that there had been
various reasons for this, or that it was not at all true;
this woman had decided, as she had done throughout her
formative years, that she was not as beloved as her siblings.
Eventually, she had to go for therapy.
A therapist told me that naturally, adults are more difficult
to treat than children. Adults have had years to convince
themselves of the veracity of their feelings. Children can
occasionally be helped within a few sessions but most parents
are reluctant to refer the child to a therapist. After all,
that is just the way he is; he is quite `normal.' They accept
him/her with his miserable nature; This is how he is and
we'll just have to put up with him. Which reinforces his
opinions; They are just putting up with me. They do not
really love me.
People who are consumed with self-pity feel that sympathy
from others draws attention, and attention is what they
crave. It is not known why these particular people are that
way and the old question arises: is it nature or nurture? If
nine children out of a family of ten are happy, outgoing
people and only one feels that life is unfair, this seems to
be a pointer towards nature. On the other hand, if one looks
carefully, one can always find some reason why this poor
child feels bad (nurture). Perhaps Mother was hospitalized
for an extended period when he was six months old, and later
tried to make up for her `neglect' with overindulgence to the
child. Or maybe this was a `sandwich' child, born after three
boisterous brothers and a year before twin sisters.
Yet there are families where there is no such thing at all as
comparisons and feelings of discrimination. A child who needs
a new garment will get it. Pieces of cake are not measured to
make sure they are identical. Even when they are measured,
the child with a chip on his shoulder will argue that the
others had more cream, or his fell, or he got his piece last.
Some psychologists argue that these children are the ones who
cry incessantly almost from birth, and that parents lose
patience with them. It is a moot point whether the child
would have grown up with a less complaining nature if he had
been picked up the second he whimpered and never been allowed
to cry at all.
A child comes home from school announcing, "EVERYBODY has got
a new type of felt pen." If a mother feels secure in the
knowledge that there is no obligation on her to provide these
luxuries, she knows that nothing is going to happen to the
child if she doesn't have exactly what `everybody' has, and
she has nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, she
feels guilty about the poor child suffering because she isn't
getting the pens she desires, she is in for trouble. Children
are astute and know how to manipulate their parents when they
see a chink in their armor. As always, personal example is
essential. If the child sees that Mother always has to get
what the neighbors have, he will follow this pattern.
Parents should make things very clear to their children that
there is no such thing as `compelled to.' Nothing obliges us
to buy you things. All the bounty we receive from Hashem is
because He wishes to be kind to us. In a small way, that is
how it is with children.
Parents want to give their children things but
children must not take it for granted. Thus, if parents do
not compare what they give to whom, the children will also
not attach as much importance to it. Indeed, the very act of
trying to make them all exactly equal often brings about
these feelings of being worth less than another sibling.
Every time you try to recompense the child with some gift, he
will have further proof that you are trying to rectify all
the times you have treated him unfairly. No words or
reasoning will help in this situation.
The child or adult who always feels that he is
underprivileged will continue to feel that way in spite of
everything the parents say and do. So what can be done to
help this unhappy mortal? First of all, do not give in to his
complaints. Do not buy her a new dress or a new pair of shoes
if she doesn't need it, just because someone else in the
family gets a new garment. Do not buy peace and quiet at any
Secondly, try to give the child the attention s/he so craves,
in a positive way, instead of singling out his sad face. Lay
on praise as often as you can for anything which he has done
which deserves commendation. Whether it was getting a younger
child dressed in the morning, or putting her satchel away as
soon as she comes home, don't forget to remark on it. "I
somehow never have to remind you to put your things away.
It's wonderful to have such a neat nature.."
Things which we often take for granted in other children
should be singled out in this child and mentioned repeatedly.
Give her a particular responsibility which she likes doing,
telling her it is because you know she is reliable.
If, in spite of all the positive reinforcement, there is
absolutely no improvement and the child still bursts into
tears because you love everybody else except him, make a joke
about it, in the same way as when you have a child who makes
a terrible fuss over a slightly grazed knee, you exclaim,
"Let's call an ambulance immediately." It lightens the
Bring in three boxes of tissues, or anything else, and tell
him he is in charge of them for the time being. If he
complains that his slice of cake had less chocolate filling,
place a whole family-sized cake in front of him and invite
him to eat it. Make a joke of it. He may be offended at
first, but it does help after a while. Do not laugh at the
child, laugh with him as you exaggerate your responses to his
As always, pray for help in raising your children.