Your Kids Don’t Want You to Be Fair (Ch. 4)

Hold the phone, crazy lady.

Let me guess? Your kids want fair. They’re constantly groaning and moping about things not being fair (unless, of course, the scales are tipped in their favor). Fairness works because after all, it’s fair.

But here’s the thing. They actually don’t want you to be fair, they just may not know it yet. What they really want is to be recognized for their own needs.

The Problem With Fairness

On the surface, it looks good and the rightest way to do things. You buy Johnny a hat and Jenny also gets a hat. You buy Bobby a toy and Jimmy also gets a toy.

But you know what happens next, right?

“His toy is cooler!” or “Her hat was more expensive!”. I promise you that if you live and die by fairness, you will die by fairness.

Why? Pushing fairness is subconsciously setting our kids up to be rivals. There is no way they can truly know if you’re being fair unless they keep score. And score keeping is uber exhausting for parents. Someone (usually the middle child) is always getting shortchanged.

A child who is raised in a super fair home will carry that into adulthood. They’re the ones at work that make sure everyone chipped in for the department baby shower gift. They’re the ones that complain about an “undeserving” person getting a promotion instead of being happy for them. Life won’t ever feel fair because their mental score always highlights their scarcity and magnifies everyone else’s prosperity.

Break the Cycle

Give to your children, instead, on the basis of their need and individuality. So if Janie wants a perm, you don’t have to also give her twin sister Jackie a perm- Jackie may be a pixie cut kinda gal.

Or if you have a child who needs new shoes, you don’t have to buy all the other kids new shoes. Yes, they’ll mope and may have a moment of jealousy, but you can calmly respond, “His shoes were falling apart. You can be sure that if you need new shoes, we will pick you up a pair.”

Just because you have one kid who loves to bowl with bumpers, you don’t have to handicap and require they all bowl with bumpers.

The whole point is that instead of giving the exact same, give depending on the need.

My children are different ages and sizes, so it doesn’t even make sense to give them the exact same amount of food. The same is true about love. When they ask you who you love the most (and believe me, it will come) instead of saying you love your kids all the same, reflect back to them the unique qualities you love about them (pssst…that’s what they’re really after).

Instead of dishing out the same amount of homework help time for each kid, give according to their need. One kid may only need 5 minutes of help while another needs 20- putting an exact time of 10 minutes per kid would be overstepping for one while undercutting for the other.

Here are some examples from the book:

Huge Caveat

There are absolutely times it does make sense to be fair. For instance, if you give the same amount of money for Christmas. Or if you take a child on a special outing of their choosing before the start of school, the others should likewise get that same opportunity.


Some things in this chapter that were implied from the principles of previous chapters include:

  1. Start by acknowledging their feelings– So in the first comic example the child is complaining about receiving less pancakes. Instead of trying to defend your pancake-measuring skills, the Dad acknowledges with “Oh, you’re still feeling hungry? Just let me know and I can get you more pancakes.”
  2. Describe their uniqueness- This parallels with the chapter on “Praise” from the How To Talk book, but essentially you can never go wrong giving descriptive phrases. This is especially true in the question, “Who do you love the most?” (or any form similar to it).

One of the most profound sentences on this chapter is seen below:

“To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely- for one’s own special self- is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.”

Next Week: Siblings in Roles


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