What does this have to do with parenting?
Some parents love to fall back on the phrase Life Is Not Fair. It's the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free-Card of parenting. It's a daily occurrence in some homes: Kid calls parent's (arbitrary) ruling unfair. Parent says Life Is Not Fair. Discussion over.
But does this make any sense? Does making arbitrary rules help a child prepare for the inevitable unfairness of nature? Is a 10:00 curfew unfair in the same way as a Category 5 hurricane, or a sudden strike by Cancer?
I think not. And I refuse to hand out arbitrary injustice to my children for the sake of teaching a lesson about life. Life can take care of its own lessons.
Life may not be fair, but people can be. Parents can be.
I want my children to grow up thinking that people can be fair and kind and wonderful. That I am fair and kind and wonderful. That they can be too. I would rather my kids start with this assumption, and be disappointed by those who contradict it, than start with the assumption that people are just unfair and we all have to accept that as part of life.
I'm not training my kids to chalk up unfairness caused by people to Life Isn't Fair. And before you ask about about my kids becoming too trusting or naive because of this, don't worry. There are lots of people out there who will teach my kids about unfairness. And I will be right alongside my kids as they learn about it. I will be there to defend justice for my kids, and to help them deal with injustice. I'm here to make sure my kids don't get used to unfairness, so they will not stop being appalled by it. Pointing it out. Questioning it.
Practically speaking, this doesn't mean I am weighing my kids' ice cream bowls to make sure they get the exact same amount (after all, there is always more ice cream to be had). But it does mean that if one of my kids tells me I am being unfair, I take it seriously. If there is anything I can do to be more fair, I will do it. We will figure it out together. Also, on those rare occasions when I can't possibly avoid being unfair, I will apologize to and sympathize with my child over it, rather than enjoy it.
I took a little inspiration from this article, in which the author writes:
“That’s not fair.” I can’t tell you what joy this phrase brings to my life. Because I hear it. Often. From my kids.
When they have to come in for dinner. When they can’t have a friend sleep over. When they have to stop their game to finish homework. When they have to make their bed (again) because it didn’t work the first time with the kicked-off sheet lying on the floor. When they don’t get their way. Then, life is not fair.
Do you feel like it's necessary to be unfair to your kids to teach them a lesson?