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It's Not Fair!
Mom with a View

It's Not Fair!

Treating kids fairly doesn’t mean treating them the same.


“Rena got a cell phone in 9th grade. So did Sara. Shlomo got one in 8th. Why can’t I have one now? It’s not fair!”

Has a similar conversation ever occurred in your home? Do any of your children ever feel hard done by? Has anyone ever whined “It’s not fair” or stomped their feet and screamed, “She always gets her way and I never do!”?

If not, please take your children’s temperature immediately -- they’re not normal!

Most children (at least those who have siblings) have, at one point or another, had a sense that things are not fair, that another child is favored over them, that they too should have gotten the new shoes, the haircut, the laptop…

There is nothing good or productive by going down that road. It is a game I refuse to play.

I initially thought that we would treat all of our children exactly the same. They will each get 10 minutes of private time with us every day. We will all visit the shoe store together (I get anxious just remembering some of those trips!). No one will get anything their sibling doesn’t have. Or conversely, every time their sister gets something new, they will get it too.

Until the busyness (or business) of life made it impossible and I realized it was a misguided philosophy.

Men and women are not the same and the Almighty doesn’t treat us as if we are. Each tribe of the Jewish people has its unique attributes and is given the portion of land appropriate to its nature. In fact, no two individuals are the same and the Almighty gives each of us the exact tools we need to achieve our full potential and our greatest closeness to Him. We have different strengths and weaknesses and accordingly, different challenges. We are not the same, only the ultimate opportunity is.

Children's material needs should be satisfied as appropriate and NOT in identical fashion to their siblings.

This should be our model for parenting – that each child is different and has what they need to personally succeed. Just as the Almighty doesn’t give us each identical gifts, we should treat our children in all respects as individuals. This starts with the basic lesson that their material needs will be satisfied as appropriate and NOT in identical fashion to their sister or brother.

It continues in all areas -- time, attention, help with homework, you name it. It’s a much healthier way of being (especially for you!) and the kids quickly adjust.

They recognize that certain siblings may need more attention at certain times in their lives or in specific areas and aren’t resentful because they know that when they are in need, your resources of time, love and perhaps money are available to them as well.

It helps diminish a sense of entitlement and foster confidence and independence.

And it’s a lot easier on the parents who are now meeting needs, not wants, and who have removed the “guilt” component from the equation.

The idea that fair doesn’t mean the same is such an important idea but too hard a philosophy to communicate in the abstract. Instead our actions can make this clear.

The only thing that should be completely equal is our love for each of our offspring.

May 22, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Marcio Sonego, May 28, 2010 6:14 PM

not easy even for grown-up

My father is 80, I am 49, and my youngest brother is 42. For me, it is still difficult to cope with the more attention my father give to my brother. Of course he deserves more attention for having problem with his wife, finance, but it seems not fair for me.

(6) Shirah, May 27, 2010 4:33 PM

My one liner response

I have 2 girls who compete for my attention. When they don't get what they want, or feel that I'm being unfair, they tell me "You're mean!" My reply said with a smile: "Thank-you. I try." Usually ends the conversation.

(5) Anonymous, May 26, 2010 7:28 PM

sounds good, but...

giving more attention, help with homework, presents, reinforcement to the child who needs it more tends to create a reality where the child who acts out the most, or is the least interested in completing his homework, gets the most attention...that usually leaves the "good kid", the one who gets good grades, cleans his room without being told twice, never acts out, does his homework on his own, doesn't demand expensive gifts, etc., with less attention because he has "less need" for it...

(4) , May 25, 2010 11:56 PM

(1) Miriam,

What??? Im not sure if i understood thaty correctly but are you telling your kids "yes, i do like them better"??? to a kid, and i am pretty much one myself, we hear "mommy dosnt like me". dont give kids that impression!! if my mother would say that to me i would walk away really hurt. Maybe instead you can list off items she has and he dosnt. when my sister got an ipod for her birthday my mother asked me if it was ok, and if i was upset [i was so happy for her, and said of corse not!] then listed off what I have, a camera... Explain everyone has a time for special presents.

(3) Anonymous, May 25, 2010 6:51 PM

I Agree

i have three little ones and I here that very often. I now try to teach them that everyone gets what they need and we have to be happy for our siblings and not be jealous. I tell them - let's work on our middos to be happy that someone else got a treat! I have noticed that they really do accept this well.

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