Killing Envy in Your Children

Envy is a powerful emotion.

And it is a form of relational acid. If not kept in check, it will destroy relationships.

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Proverbs 14:30

It can also twist a person’s affections beyond recognition, making them chase things they don’t even care about.

Here’s a story from my own kids.

We have a dog. My kids are responsible for picking up all of the dog poop from the backyard. This is the main way they contribute to taking care of the family pet.

It’s not their favorite job.

They would rather not do it.

But sometimes they still fight over who gets to use the scooper and who has to hold the bag.

One time, the two youngest had gotten outside quickly and had started the chore. My daughter went out and came back in, visibly upset.

“They won’t let me use the scooper and they won’t let me use the bag!”

5 minutes ago, she didn’t want to do it. Now, she was upset that someone else was doing it.

“Well,” I said. “Are you desperate to pick up the poop? Is it something you really, really want to do?”


“So stop complaining and instead tell them ‘thank you’ for doing the job.”

Envy makes us desire something just because someone else is doing it. It doesn’t matter whether you actually desired it or not. Envy will twist your desires.

And to fulfill your twisted desires, you’ll damage relationships and then feel hollow at the end of it. You’ll wonder why you even started chasing it in the first place.

Killing envy is related to forging sibling bonds. I’ll quote the “kill envy” description as it still applies.

When something good happens to one of them, it should be treated as if it is good for the whole family. “Rejoice when others rejoice” should be one of your anthems and guiding principles.

When a member of the team wins, the whole team wins.

This can be a problem with boys, in particular. Brotherly strife has been a problem since Cain and Abel, so be sure and sniff out any envy and kill it.

Model this for them. Celebrate accomplishments at the dinner table. If there is a consequent reward, like ice cream, let the other siblings partake and enjoy as well.

Do not make comparisons. Do not say that one should be like the other. “Why don’t you eat all of your vegetables, like Bobby?”

This will drive them to differentiate themselves more in the opposite direction, in possibly destructive ways, just so they maintain their own identity. And it gives them permission to resent their sibling.

Instead, praise what is good. The others will catch on.

Expanding on that, here are three more things to focus on:

  1. Recognize it in yourself and kill it – if you don’t kill it in yourself first, you will be hesitant to discipline it in others.
  2. Recognize it at work in your kids and guide them through it – help them recognize it and how dangerous it is. Guide them toward more healthy outlets.
  3. Do not tolerate ingratitude – it is the soil where envy grows. Do not let complaining go unchecked.

Keep envy in check and your family will help give life to your flesh.

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