Being Fair

As parents, we’ve all heard our children tell us, “That’s not fair!” So…

Do you try to make sure both pieces of cake are exactly the same size?

Do you count the Christmas and other gifts so each child gets the same amount?

Do you let your teen attend events that her friends attend even if you have misgivings?

If so, you’re attempting to be fair, and it won’t work. Here’s why.

1. You can cut the cake as evenly as possible, measure how full the glasses are, and count out the exact number of Easter goodies placed in each basket. Someone is likely to see it as unequal anyway.

2. It requires a lot of energy to even things out. Measuring, counting and comparing are a waste of time, effort, and energy.

3. By making sure that everything is fair, you set yourself up for regular complaints and verbal hassles.

4. Attempts to be fair contribute to sibling rivalry. “He got more than I did.” This pits child against child.

5. You are setting yourself up for manipulation. Children can use your desire to be fair to invite guilt and shame.

6. Treating each child equally does not meet the needs of the specific person. If one requires eyeglasses and another needs a special diet, do you give both children glasses and put each one on the same diet? Of course not. Different kids have different needs. Think equity, not equality.

7. Attempting to make things fair for your children helps them develop a dysfunctional life myth that everything in life should be fair. While most child development experts don’t advocate telling children, “Life isn’t fair,” they don’t advocate teaching them through your behaviors that life ought to be fair either.

8. To allow children to expect that everything should be fair sets them up for recurring frustration and disappointment.

9. Striving to be fair encourages feelings of entitlement in children. It contributes to their learning to expect to get what they want when they want it.

10. When your teen says, “It’s not fair. Everyone else gets to go. Why not me?”, the adult is required to do the thinking. You end up doing the thinking and the convincing. Say, “Convince me why you should go,” to require the child to do the thinking.

Next time you hear, “That’s not fair,” explain to your children that you’re not attempting to treat them equally. Tell them, “Different people have different needs.” Say, “I address needs. I don’t try to be fair or make things even. Tell me what you need, and we’ll talk about seeing if we can make it happen for you.”

This information was adapted from an article by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, two of the foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children.

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