By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
not fair" is a common childhood complaint. Parents hear it
all the time.
come I didn't get any? It's not fair."
"He got more than I did. It's not fair."
"You let her stay up later. That's not fair."
do you respond when your child tells you, "It's not fair?"
Do you race around attempting to make sure everything is perceived
as fair? Are you on guard to make sure that love, gifts, attention,
and privileges are doled out evenly in your family? If so, you just
might be doing your children a disservice. Here's why.
your children use "It's not fair" language they are assuming
the victim stance. They are activating a core belief that life should
be fair at all times and when it isn't, they feel unjustly treated.
reality, life is not fair. Two people can be speeding down the highway
and only one gets a ticket. Two people can be exposed to the same
virus and only one gets sick. The reality of life is that fairness
is not applied to everyone at all times. Life simply doesn't unfold
that way. To allow our children to expect otherwise is to set them
up for reoccurring disappointment and frustration.
"It's not fair" cry is an outgrowth of a faulty assumption
that all children should be treated equally. If you buy into that
myth, you set yourself up for constant complaints and hassles.
do not attempt to be equal and fair to all your children at all
times. If you do, you are setting yourself up for manipulation.
Once children know you are trying to be fair and attempting to set
things up so everything looks even, they can then use your positive
intention to plead their case, manipulate you, and encourage you
to feel guilty.
to make things equal for children will cause a lot of pain for everyone
involved. Even if you managed to parcel everything out in equal
portions, those portions still won't look equal through the eyes
of your children.
for equity rather than equality. Equity means that all children
have comparable opportunities to be loved and appreciated and to
have their needs met. Equity does not mean that all children are
treated the same way. As you know, no two children are the same,
and there's no reasonable rationale for treating them as if they
example, your older child may wear glasses and your younger child
does not. If you treated them the same, both would have to wear
glasses. But the youngest one doesn't need glasses and the other
one does! Your youngest child, however, does need braces, while
the other one's teeth are perfectly straight. So the youngest child
gets braces. The other gets glasses. The only thing you need to
guarantee your children is that they will each have opportunities
to get their needs met.
a father we know bought his daughter a volleyball net, poles, and
brought nothing home for his son.
daughter asked, "What do I get these for?"
you're going to volleyball camp and trying to make the varsity this
year, I thought you might need these."
did you get Austin?"
isn't trying to make the varsity. Later, when he needs something,
he'll get it. Different people have different needs. Right now it
seemed like you needed these."
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."
means more than everyone doing the same thing the same way at the
same time. "Fair" means everyone getting what they need
when they need it.
Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of "The 10 Commitments:
Parenting with Purpose," ( available from Personal Power Press
at (toll-free) 877-360-1477, 10
and bookstores everywhere). They also publish FREE email newsletters,
one for parents and another for couples. Subscribe to one or both
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.chickmoorman.com