Equality is not always the answer. Why we cant always be fair…

“That is sooooooo not fair” wailed my 9  year old from the bathroom. Not really sure what he was wailing about but my swift response was an equally pained cry of “guess what buddy….life’s not fair!”  You see I know that my kids get ample amounts of everything. They get ample amounts of love, attention, toys, books, games, clothes, shoes and opportunity. It seems at times however, there can still be some snippet of  ‘something’ that is alluding them, but is apparently, rightfully theirs!

In my last post about sibling rivalry, I wrote about the need for school-age children to have everything fair and equal. As a social, political and humanitarian philosophy, well great…..that’s how it ought to be. But in the confines of a 3 bedroom home comprising 6 people,  such ideology must be forced to take on a more  flexible presence and adapt to the emotional,  social and financial constraints of the family environment.

When one child needs a pair of shoes it is simply unreasonable, and not financially desirable, for me to buy all 4 children a new pair of shoes. (It is not uncommon for my boys to have a sudden memory loss concerning the purchase of their own new pair of shoes only weeks previously). It is also not feasible that because one child gets invited to a “playdate” that I have to run around and organise plays for the other children.  Likewise it is OK to pay more  attention to a sick child, or a child that is simply having a bad day and needing ‘something extra’.  It is OK to cook one child’s favourite meal despite the gasps of despair from the jowls of the  fussier sibling. We must not let our kids bully us into believing that everything must be fair and equal all of the time. There will be times when someone elses’ needs are simply more pressing than their own.

In a household it is pretty easy to prove that ‘what goes around comes around’. We can intsill in them the notion that their time will come, but it may not necessarily be right now. In the real world, that place where they are shuffled out to fend for themselves, it doesnt always work that way. Life isnt always fair. The guy who works the hardest doesnt always get the promotion. Some people do win the lottery after buying one ticket whilst others who have religiously forked out their pennies for decades remain winless. Some people appear to be afflicted with one setback after another, whilst others seem to waltz through life relatively unscathed. It is for this reason that we must continue to develop in our children the skills and resilient coping strategies to ‘move on’, even when the world seems to be ‘ganging up on them’ and refusing to play fair.

In a family home, it is not just the siblings who children will be comparing their plight, but sometimes they can also be heard bemoaning the extra rights and privileges of the parents,  as if it is simply unfair that they are allowed to stay up later, eat more chocolate or never have to do homework!  But of course kids do not have equal rights to the parents. They have rights, there is no denying that, but the sooner we let them realise that they do not have the same rights, responsibilities and resources to run their lives, then the sooner they will enter into adolescence with a healthy respect for the world around them.

So next time you are bombarded with moans and wails of the inequality that is eroding your little cherubs existence, then be sure you refuse to enter into a battle of what is and isn’t fair, but rather instill in them an attitude of patience, flexibility and adaptability that will help them develop the strength and resilience required to tackle the unpredictable nature of the world in which they will be immersed.

Do your children complain of unfairness? Do you find it difficult to justify the need for inequality?

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Posie Patchwork

    Oh this is so interesting. My children are really amazing at not counting or working out who missed out on what. We don’t have a lot of money to blow on accessories & toys, when groceries & fuel are required, but when it comes to shoes, times 4 children, i was raised with “always buy the best shoes, hair brushes & bras you can afford” – ok thanks to my English ladylike mummy, so off to the Athlete’s Foot we go, 4 x $120 sneakers, it’s heart attack time. My children are athletes so they get good milage out of the shoes. But if i buy one a box of Lego, no one complains, no asks why he got Lego or she got a new dress, or the high schooler got a laptop, they seem to share it all somehow. I know i’m freaky lucky on this topic, but i look back to when they were younger, they never asked for anything (chocolates at the supermarket or toys from a department store) they just seemed to understand the difference between a treat & an investment purchase (like designer clothes which will last at least 3 of them). Good luck with your big family, we’re somehow squeezing a 5th bedroom out of our house to make the age balance work better (i’m halving my studio space) but i’ve been there, 6 of us in a 3 bedroom town house in Sydney, it worked so well when they were little!! Teens take up so muh more space – they need space around them where no one will talk to them, interupt them, touch their things, it can be dicey. Love Posie

    1. Martine

      Thanks Posie, but I think it is not only luck that has made your children the way they are but rather some great parenting, instilling in them some wonderful values that you have obviously passed on to them. And I love the comment about the best shoes, hair brushes & bras! And yes we are going to expand our house to give our growing boys more space!

  2. katepickle

    Ah this is my life!
    Mostly my own doing because in the early days of parenting twins I was obsessed with things being ‘fair and equal’, but now it is coming home to roost with the cry ‘It’s not fair’ echoing around our house constantly!
    Early last year when one twin went up a reading level and the other didn’t I had to explain that ‘fair doesn’t always mean the same’ (I even blogged about it!)…. we are still trying to wrap our heads around that concept, and are a long way from banishing the dreaded ‘but it’s not fair’ catch cry, but at least it is a start.

    1. Martine

      Yes twins certainly would bring a whole new dimension to many parenting practices, particularly this issue! But it sounds like you are well on the way to having them understand this and I love your comment that fair doesnt always mean the same. Feel free to add the link for that post in a comment, would love to read it.

  3. Debbie

    One of my hubby’s favourite sayings at the moment is ” Fair is the place where pigs win ribbons”….
    He often asks one of the kids when another of them is complaining… “What’s fair….?”

    1. Martine

      I love that saying!

  4. emma

    Just found your post via Planning with Kids. What a great post. You just can’t be even all of the time as it wouldn’t be fair on you! The more it’s reiterated I think the more they understand, but why do they need to be told 50 times sometimes before they ‘get’ something?!

    1. Martine

      Can’t answer that one! Sometimes it may take 50 times but at least if the effort has been put in you will reap the rewards…like most elements of parenting, the best outcomes come from perseverance and persistence!

  5. cas webb

    Such an interesting post. My daughter is 8 and my son is 10 months. DD has had 8 years to collect a room full of toys and books etc. So I find myself purchasing a lot for DS, not many 8 year old girls toys and books and clothes are easy to hand down to a baby boy 🙂

    But DD is old enough to understand the value of money and earning her toys so I am often grabbing things for DS and then in the same minute saying to DD, ‘nope you need to do your chores first,’ or ‘nope, if you buy a new barbie you have to get rid of an old one.’

    She has not said ‘its not fair,’ yet but I’m waiting for it 🙂

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