The concept of fairness has really had me thinking lately. Following a series of conversations with close friends and my children's words,"That's not fair", ringing in my ears... I've been on a quest to figure it out... in my own mind. Where do I stand on the issue of fairness and how does it fit in to our family?
One thing I know from having three children is that despite them all having the same mum and dad, they are all completely different from one another. Although they do share a likeness in their appearance, they like different foods, they have different temperaments and there is no "one" way to parent them because they all respond differently to behavioral discipline and rewards.
As embarrassing as this sounds, the first words to escape my mouth when one of my kids says, "That's not fair" are often "Well, life's not fair!" But how do I explain that concept to my 5, 4 and 2 year old when so much of the other time, I am cutting 'equal' pieces of cake, dishing out the same number of crackers and making sure that what one gets, the others do too?
The problem is, that when one of my children misses out on something that the other one got, they feel unjustly treated. How do they learn to cope when they're not invited to a party that their sibling is, or when their sister gets a lolly bag and they don't? If they think that life has to be fair, then aren't they being set up for constant disappointment and frustration?
I'm wondering, if society has swung too far on the 'fairness' pendulum by creating situations where every child is a winner, all the kids get a trophy and nobody fails?
I love this quote from parentguidenews.com, "Aim for equity rather than for 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 were".
It goes on to explain that as alternative, we could teach our children that we are not attempting to treat them equally because different children have different needs.
We can explain, I am trying to address your needs. I am not trying to be fair or make things even. Tell me what you need, and let's talk about seeing if we can make it happen for you.
But even this seems idealistic to me. Fine for the family that has the means to provide for their children's needs but what about the 1.7 billion people who are estimated to live in absolute poverty today?
It's not fair when children are born in to families where they aren't cared for, or when teenage girls are sold to brothels, or that little boys have to steal food just to keep their younger siblings alive or that some children have no food to eat night after night...
On ministrytochildren.com is says, "The Bible reveals only three instances in which the word fair, meaning equal or same, is used, and each time it is terms of how humans should treat other people fairly. In all of these instances, God was not calling for equal treatment, but merely that we would follow the Golden rule to do unto others as we would have them do unto us".
This leaves me with both a lot to think about and a lot to communicate with my own children. I need to figure out how we do life in an unfair world, how can I bless my children evenly but not necessarily at the same time and in the same way... and how we help those around us that are born (or find themselves) in unfair situations.
What's your thoughts? Are you someone who is feeling the pressure to be "fair"? What do you say to your kids? What else can parents do to help their kids avoid the trap of thinking that life will always be fair?
I'm adding this video too, food for thought!