Saturday, July 30, 2011

That's NOT Fair!

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, "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 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!


Narelle said...

Hmmmm, that's certainly food for thought.
Thanks for a thought provolking post.

Anonymous said...

What comes to mind for me in this post is that the tricky part is actually when you have enough to provide for 'wants' not just 'needs'. How do you explain to a child that they can't have a lolly they want when the next child gets the lolly they also want (but don't actually need). It seems a bit different to the equity that might be required if it were a question of who gets the food = the person who needs it most at that time in order to survive/stay healthy etc. in order to assure that everyone has what they need? Maybe? Just initial thoughts, not all that well developed...(Meke)

Cross Family said...

Thanks Narelle and Meke. I'm still trying to figure it out too. I guess with the lolly scenario, there may be times when you don't want your child to have a lolly just because someone else has one... whether it be that they've had enough sugar already, they have a food allergy to it or it's simply nearly time for dinner and the point is that you want your kids to learn to be able to cope with missing out without having a meltdown and feeling like they're 'hard done by' or 'it's not fair'... It's such a difficult concept to get my head around and the more I think about it the more confused I am on my own thoughts... thanks for your input. Hoping to hear some more people's thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Yes actually after some thinking I have decided it may be the other way around (or maybe it should be somewhere in between). But I think if I had kids I would want them to see that it isn't fair to have everything you want while someone else doesn't even have the basic things they need (and hopefully this will inspire them to act and initiate social change) but to be able to tolerate things not being fair, as you say. Hmmmm. Perhaps I'm a bit idealistic.

Gary Lewis said...

Great article Andie! Reminds of Zig Ziglar's story of what is fair. A sister and a brother have an apple (or piece of cake) to share. Mum says to one "you cut it Kylie and share it with you brother." Kylie smiles.Bradley exlaims "that's not fair!" Mum says "Not fair? Why Bradley - you get to choose which piece to eat". Now that's fair!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog. Thanking for posting this. I often wonder the same thing. Is it fair that one of my children has special needs and the other does not? What if one child needs braces and their sibling doesn't. Do I put glasses on both my children just because one needs them? Do both my kids play basketball, just because one has a talent in that area? I think my role as their parent is to look at their individual weaknesses and challenges and to support them equally and provide for their needs but I can't guarantee it's always going to seem fair. (Sandy)

Cross Family said...

Thanks for commenting Sandy. Good point.