Fair Does Not Mean the Same

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Tammy Sassoon

One of our children’s favorite tactics to strike a guilt chord in moms is to challenge, “It’s not fair!”

All our thoughts about, “Are we doing a good enough job? Will my child grow up to know that I love him as much as his brother? What kind of damage will I cause if I don’t make sure that everything is rationed out perfectly?” pop up into our heads when our children use these very powerful three words.

What Does “Fair” Mean?

As always, before deciding on our strategy, we must know the proper way to think about the matter. So, what does fair actually mean? Most people think that “fair” means the same. But “fair” really means that everybody gets what they need. The examples that we give children are: how silly would it be if Mommy were to give out Band-Aids to the whole family every time somebody got a cut? Or what about if Mommy decided to buy everyone the same size shoe? How silly… then we wouldn’t have enough Band-Aids when we actually needed them, and we would also be wearing the wrong size shoes!

We want to raise our children to know that the concept of trying to get what other people have is quite silly. As always, we don’t teach valuable life lessons during the difficult moments, so we do not teach this concept when the child is saying it’s not fair. We teach it throughout their lives in relaxed moments. 

Like everything we teach our children, they need to see and know in their hearts that we believe the same things we are teaching them. Are we living lives of knowing that fair means everyone gets what they need? Do we fully understand and know that we have everything that we need? The proper way to look at this is that if I don’t have it – it means I don’t need it right now. I can pray for it, but not because my friend has it, rather because I think it would be a good thing for me to have. So, too, when our children ask for things, we need to teach them to ask because they want it, not because their siblings have it. So instead of saying it’s not fair he got to stay up late, we can teach them not to compare and simply ask for what they’d like and Mommy will say yes or no.

I once knew a family that let all the younger children stay up till 10:30 pm because they convinced the mother that it’s not fair for the younger children to have to go to sleep when the much older child was going to sleep at 10:30. She felt bad for the younger ones, even though she really knew that little bodies need more sleep. She mistakenly believed that the loving thing to do was to allow them to all have the same bedtime, instead of making sure they got the amount of sleep their bodies actually needed. We are not talking about a situation where the child struggled to fall asleep and the mother needed good sleep strategies. We are talking about a situation where the mother’s insecurities about making the children feel equally loved stopped her from giving the younger ones healthy bedtimes.

Give the Message – There Is Enough Love for Everyone

So how DO we convince our children that we love them all equally? Actually, we don’t need to convince them. We project the confidence that it’s so true that we never feel the need to persuade them. We can mention to our children sometimes that it’s so cool that no matter how many children a mother has, she always has enough love for all of them.

Also, let them see that we think well of their siblings and believe they can, too. Let’s not be afraid to thank or praise a child in front of siblings.

It surely takes hard work, but with effort, it is possible for our children to be satiated with their lot in life.