It isn’t fair

Handling children and the concept of fairness is a challenge parents all tackle sooner or later, writes columnist Kita Szpak


How many times have you heard that statement? I’d venture to say as soon as the vocabulary and the independence align post toddlerhood, you will have heard this – amplified multifold if there are siblings in the family. What makes a response to the sense of injustice being experienced by your little one (or ones) difficult, is the fact that life and its situations are sometimes unfair.  However, try explaining this to them in their moment of anguish.

To put this in perspective, think of the times you’ve thought things were unfair; where you felt judged, blamed, criticized, overwhelmed by unfolding circumstances that were beyond your control. We’ve all voiced (silently or otherwise) the sense that we’ve been treated unfairly… and we’re adults. Imagine the frustration that exists in the mind of a kid who not only lacks the maturity but the means of expression to fully explain how s/he is feeling. Hence the immediate way out: “It isn’t fair!”  

Add to this the fact that what is fair or unfair is a concept rather than a solid object, and you realize you can’t just point to something and tell your child, “This is what fair is and you don’t have it in your hand at the moment.” If only it were this easy. So how do you deal with this challenging situation that happens more often than you’d like?

Generally, your child’s sense of unfairness stems from a lack of attention or perception that their brother and sister are getting more attention than they are.  This could take the shape of a sibling’s birthday where naturally the spotlight – and presents – are for them to a more extensive scenario where brother Derek is playing competitive hockey and a lot of time is dedicated to his practices and games. Weekends, as you know, are eaten up this way. Perhaps a sister has been injured or is sick; she may need additional care due to a health challenge.  Again, time is a factor. There’s not enough of it to go around until you step in and decide how you’re going to handle this situation.

Be resolute in finding time to be with your child who feels hard done by.  Respect their feelings – this is the way they feel.  No wrong or right here. Whether it’s a bedtime ritual that’s just you and them; a walk to the school bus every morning; a weekly trip to a favourite place, sharing popcorn while watching a movie of their choice, carve out exclusivity with them on an ongoing basis. Of course, it’s hard to do, but your kids are young only once, and they need you now – not in 10 years when the last thing they’ll want to do is hang out with you.