The fear of not being fair

Opinion: Columns

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By Melissa Ford

Coach - Personal & Business

It's not fair; she always goes first!

He has more ice cream! That's not fair!

How come I have to go to bed earlier? You're so unfair!

Even though we do everything in our power to treat our kids fairly, we're often accused of being mean, unjust, favoring one child over another, short-changing, denying, and being the primary cause of all pain and suffering.

Fairness is a tricky deal, striking fear in the hearts of many parents.

My first awareness that fairness was ruling my life hit me full force as I stood at my kitchen counter pouring juice into two identical cups, trying my darnedest to fill each vessel, drop per drop, with an identical amount of apple juice. Satisfied with my effort, I presented my carefully measured masterpieces to my parched offspring and, without even missing a beat, my son cried out, "That's not fair! She has more than I do!"

My breath caught in my throat. Could it be true? Was I treating them unfairly?

Quickly whisking away the cups to properly scrutinize the inequitable pour, it dawned on me: What was I doing measuring juice? Had I lost my mind? Had my life really come to this?

Right then and there, I made a decision: it was time to stop holding myself hostage to the unfair concept of fair.

More often than not when our kids scream, "It's unfair!" what we really hear is, "You don't love me as much as so-and-so." That's when parental fear kicks in. But if we breathe deeply, taking a moment to reflect, we might reconsider …

Do we really want to treat our children fairly?

A wise parent recently told me that her definition of fairness does not mean what I, as a kid, used to refer to as "even-steven." In fact, this proactive mom prominently displays her definition of fairness in her kitchen for all to view.

"It's been my motto throughout the years," she happily explains. Here it is:

"FAIR" does not mean that every child gets the same treatment.

"FAIR" means that every child gets what he or she needs.

—Richard Lavoie

If we try to make everything "fair," coming from a place of fear, we'll be measuring apple juice, counting birthday presents, and scorekeeping play-dates or special treats, trying to prove our love through equal distribution.

However, if fairness means our children get what they need, then we can throw out the scorecard and get on with the important business of life — loving, not measuring!



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