Magazine article Work & Family Life

Fair Means Equal, Right? Wrong

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Fair Means Equal, Right? Wrong

Article excerpt

Many parents believe that being fair means everything is equal. We think that if we treat all children the same, they will eventually stop arguing about who got more, who gets to go first, or who's the favorite. The trouble is, they won't--probably not even when they get to be adults.

Fairness does not mean equal or the same. Trying to treat children equally at every moment is like trying to extricate yourself from quicksand; the harder you try, the deeper you sink,

The truth is, your children don't really want to be treated the same at every moment, no matter how much they clamor for equality. The message behind the fairness complaint is really this: "Am I special?" "Do you love me?" "Am I worthy of your attention?"

Treating children identically often backfires, because you end up depriving them of what they really want, which is to be considered special and valued for who they are. Kids need to be celebrated for their achievements; their efforts need to be noticed and rewarded too.

Changing the focus

There are other times, however, when giving kids the same thing is the most practical thing to do. But the point is to change the focus from comparison to individual need. For example:

Matt: Billy got more cereal than me.

Mom: You sound like you're really hungry.

Matt: I am!

Mom: Okay. Show me bow much more you want.

Of course, not all sibling inequities are as easy to solve. If there's only one piece of cake left with a rose decoration and three kids who want it, there's no way to make everyone happy. Kids will have to deal with the hard but unavoidable lesson that life isn't always fair. There's nothing wrong with saying, "Next time, it will be your turn."

To avoid a fight over such regular issues as who had what last and wft-ose turn it is next, let your kids work out a schedule for whose turn it is to sit in the front seat or choose the TV channel. …

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