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We have two family friends between 7-15, A and B. I (early 20's) have known since they were babies, when I was just a child myself. I wouldn't say we've 'grown up together' due to the age gap, but they're probably the closest thing I have to siblings. I've been tutoring the older kid for a while now too.

Kids C and D's family became closer to our family (and the others in our circle) about 4 years ago. So I was an adult (barely) when I met the kids.

Occasionally, I have taken the four kids out. Sometimes all together in a bigger group of other kids and other young adults, sometimes just the four of them, sometimes A and B to one thing and C and D to another. Its partly a gift of free time to their parents, but I guess I enjoy being able to treat the kids too.

I have now heard that kid C (13 y/o) has been complaining that I'm favouring kids A and B. This is because last time a bunch of kids and young adults went to the cinema (including A B C and D), I paid for A+B's meal and tickets.

This is true, because if I take A+B to the cinema, I always do pay for them. On this occasion, aware that we were in a bigger group, I didn't do it in a flashy way, or draw attention to it. There were a dozen of us including other kids and I certainly couldn't afford to pay for everyone. C had clearly been watching me. As it happens, I recall that time I did end up paying towards C and D's meal, because they hadn't brought enough money. I also picked the kids up and dropped them home.

Since then, a friend and I have taken A+B to the cinema, just the four of us, and I believe word has got back to C.

What's frustrating to me is that in between those two cinema occasions I took C and D out just themselves on a highly expensive day out. It was a total one off, an experience they loved, and it cost a lot of money. Think a heap of cinema tickets. I did it totally off my own back, my idea, my gift to them.

So over the last few months, because of that expensive day out, I have actually spent more money on C and D than A and B. Because I wasn't counting, it wasn't a competition. In addition, C's mum asked me to tutor her just a month or so ago and I have done, so because of this additional time spent together I had been thinking about paying for their cinema tickets etc next time there's a big group going out, though I hadn't told them.

My feeling now is that I don't want to pay for a single thing more for C. But she is a child still and I think she's jealous of the bond I have with A and B because I watched them grow up and our families spend more time together. I don't want to be petty since I'm the adult here. The most important thing for me is that I don't help create a monster in an ungrateful child, but equally, I don't want to be pushing buttons on someone's insecurities.

How can I respond to this complaint by C in a productive way to reduce her jealousy and help prevent something similar from happening in the future?

  • I know you're trying to preserve your privacy, so feel free to say no, but...it would really help answers if you could give us some numbers for your age and the ages of the children. Are we talking 20-25 for you and 10-15 for the kids? Or 15-18 for you and 7-10 for the kids? Both of those will likely get you widely varying answers as the emotional maturity of the children is vastly different in each case. – scohe001 Nov 6 '19 at 21:34
  • Also, as "What should I do?" kind of questions are generally off-topic here, I've taken the liberty of editing your last paragraph to try to bring this more on-topic for our site. Feel free to rollback or edit further if you feel it disagrees with your intent. – scohe001 Nov 6 '19 at 21:37
  • Thank you for bringing the question in line with the rules for me, I appreciate it! I'm early 20's and kid C is 13. The kids are age 7-15. – Zooba Nov 6 '19 at 21:48
  • Hello! Welcome to Interpersonal.SE. Please read our tour page. You can see the link at the bottom of the page. – isakbob Nov 7 '19 at 2:58
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You shouldn't worry about "creating a monster" with anything that you do with these children. Ultimately, these children are not your responsibility. Their parents should be attuned to potential problems such as jealous behaviour and deal with them as they arise. Everything you have done - show an interest in the children, take them out, introduce them to the other kids you know etc - are all positive things. Sooner or later, children do have to learn to deal with feelings of jealousy and learn how to behave in groups. Their experiences with you and the other children are ultimately good for them. Most kids gain similar experiences every day at school, good and bad, and parents help their kids make sense of them, learn from them, and grow into adults.

I would carefully consider how this "complaint" has reached you - you say that "you've heard" child C has complained about you, and that you "believe word has got back to C". Have they, or their parents actually told you this is the case? If not, I would seriously consider whether you need to act at all. When you deal with children, sometimes you do have to think and act on their level - but I'm sure that all the parents of these children will expect you to behave like the adult you are, otherwise, they probably wouldn't be letting you take their kids to the cinema and tutor them. If this is just a "childish" complaint, something the kids have talked about among themselves, then the adult thing to do would be to rise above it.

Psychologist Ilona Boniwell, Psychologies.co.uk's expert family columnist, advises that, when dealing with issues arising with other people's children, you should "talk to the parents", unless the situation arises when there are no other adults around, "then talk to the children".

One option, then, would be to carry on as normal - treat all the kids the way you want to treat them, which sounds pretty generous as it is. If child C (or any other child) indicates to you that they are unhappy/jealous/angry/whatever, then deal with it in an age-appropriate way there and then. Reassure them that you care very much about them, that you enjoy taking them out. If they flag up that you paid for the other kids and not them, you could point out that they don't know what arrangement you have with A & B's parents for payment, because that is a private matter.

If, on the other hand, you really want to take a proactive step and deal with the things you've "heard", or perhaps if this has reached other adults, I would strongly advise you go to C's parents, not to the child directly. That could come across as inappropriate. An adult doesn't directly talk to another person's child about a problem between them without the parent knowing. Talk to the parent, perhaps asking them in the first instance if the child has mentioned anything to them, or just say what you have heard. Ask the parent how they would like you to deal with it, if at all.

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    Hey there! Seems like you forgot to include back up. So, could you add external sources to support your claim or tell us about a similar situation you were in before? Who was involved, what did you said and how did the other person react? – Ael Nov 7 '19 at 11:14

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