Why you should stay away from trying to make things “fair”


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Dr. B – Parents often make themselves crazy trying to make things equal among their children. They are afraid that if something is not “equal” it will be perceived as favoritism.


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Most parents strive very hard not to show favoritism to any of their children. The problem is that favoritism is in the eye of the beholder. What is fair to one person may not seem fair to another.  This means that universal fairness is impossible to achieve. Moreover, it does not reflect the real world.

When It’s not fair! was said by one or more of my kids, I generally would respond,

Yes, sometimes in life things are not fair.  It can be pretty frustrating.

If the kids were fighting over a treat, the front seat, a toy, or something similar I would say,

Seems like the only fair thing is for nobody to get it. If you can’t agree on how to make it even, I guess no one will get ice cream (or, you’ll all have to sit in the back seat, or I’ll have to take the toy away for a couple of days). OR you can work together to figure out how you want to do it.

Carrie J – As a parent, if you can remove yourself from this kind of conflict, you’ll be surprised how quickly they can figure things out on their own. And what an incredible skill they’ll be developing!

If it’s not something that can be worked out, try something like,

I’m sorry I was not able to make this situation fair for you. I get upset when things aren’t fair, too.

A good recommendation is to give an age-appropriate example from your own life about how something wasn’t fair and how you coped with it.

The important thing is, try not to jump in and solve it or attempt to make everyone happy. The lessons they will learn when they are able to go through the feelings and/or work things out on their own will come in very handy in the future!