If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard this cry a time or two. Most everyone has made this claim at some point in life. But before we go any further there are some things we should probably think about when it comes to fairness.
1. Life’s not fair. Thank God for that! If God gave us what we deserved, we would be a miserable lot of people, but in His abundant mercy, He doesn’t always give us what is fair.
2. Some things are a bummer! Sometimes we might deserve something awesome, but for one reason or another, we can’t have it. True, it stinks, but it’s a reality in this fallen world. We might not get to choose what happens, but we do get to choose how we respond.
3. Fair and equal aren’t synonymous. Confusing the definitions seems to be where a lot of people get mixed up, and unfortunately, because many adults are confused about this, their children are too. There’s a word for this. It’s called entitlement, and it’s way too prevalent in our society.
I do get it. We want our kids to be happy, and it’s just easier to give them all ice cream after dinner than to withhold it from the one child who refused to eat her green beans. That would be equal, but it wouldn’t be fair. Equal is giving all of your children the same privileges. Fair is basing those privileges on behavior, the effort put forth, age or whatever criteria is appropriate in a given situation.
Recently, for example, my daughter was up before the sun. She diligently completed the majority of her school work before going to the barn to feed her calves. Once she returned she was able to complete the remainder of her schoolwork, and she had a beautiful afternoon free for horseback riding.
At the same time, another child had an activity he would also have enjoyed. It would have been easy to say that because our beautiful fall days are coming to a close, we’d all go out and enjoy it. There have been times I’ve done this, but this time I felt that all assignments needed to be completed.
Those who worked hard and finished promptly were free sooner. It wasn’t equal, but it was fair.
Privileges and gifts don’t always need to be based on performance. At one time I felt like I had to give gifts equally. If I were in a store and I found something that would bring a smile to one of my children, I would end up stressing about finding something to take home for each of them. Then I realized I was missing out on an opportunity to teach my children about rejoicing with others who are blessed. Each of them, at some point, will receive an unexpected gift. It just doesn’t always need to be every time one of their siblings receives one.
My concern with keeping everything equal with my children while they’re young is that they’ll eventually grow into adults with unrealistic expectations. The world already bombards them with advertising, and so forth that is intended to convince them that if they want something they deserve it. Period.
It’s a society of instant gratification and pleasure often at someone else’s expense. It’s selfishness and envy which are characteristics in direct opposition to what God wants for our kids. We don’t have to buy into it. Search the Scriptures! Do a Bible study on fairness, equality, privilege or responsibility. When we have a godly perspective, our children will have a much more balanced outlook on life.
As a parent, how do you teach your children the difference?
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