Thursday, March 28, 2013

How Do You...Maintain Fairness With a Big(ger) Family?

How do you maintain fairness among five children? 

I don't know about you, but if I had a penny for every time one of my children said, "That's not fair," to me or to each other, I'd be a rich woman.

I've adopted an idea that has been revolutionary to me in raising a larger than average family.  Things do not have to be even to be fair. 

For example, Brian or I will sometimes need to run a quick errand. Two or three of the kids will ask to go.  We choose someone (maybe the first to ask, maybe the child who will be a help on the outing, maybe the child who is not needed at home)  and we will inevitably hear, "But why can't I go, too? It's not fair." 

Or for example, there may be one serving of macaroni and cheese left over from last night's dinner.  Only one child can have that for lunch so I have to choose one.  Those left with peanut butter and jelly for lunch may declare, "It's not fair!"

I try to explain to them that we do not have to have identical experiences or identical opportunities for things to be deemed "fair."  If one sibling gets the treat today, you may get it tomorrow.  If one gets to stay up late tonight, maybe it will be your turn next week.  Or maybe you will have to wait until you are older and have earned the privilege.  That's fair, too!  

We want our children to have the same mindset with gifts.  We've tried to teach our children that gifts are just that-- gifts.  They are not something we are owed.  Gifts do not have to be monetarily equal or given in equal quantities.  I'm not talking about giving one child a large gift and handing the other child a piece of candy.  I refer more to idea of comparing gifts with another person and realizing that his gift cost $10 when mine cost only $7, or that she got 2 books while I was given 1 DVD.

When all else fails, we have been known to suggest to our children that since they desire fairness so acutely,  maybe we should apply the same principle to discipline, too.  If one child is being punished, it would be unfair not to punish them all!  This always drives the point home (at least for the moment).

How do you handle the fairness issue in your house? Let us know in the comments.  (And be sure to comment, too, if you have an idea for a  future "How Do You...?" question.)

1 comment:

  1. this is one of the smartest things my mom did for us when we were growing up. I remember coming home from school and seeing that she had gone shopping and bought some new clothes, or some such thing,and she would leave it all nicely laid out on my bed. Several months down the road it was my sisters or brothers turn. We never knew when to expect it but we never got upset that it was the others turn. We were just excited to see each others faces. Life is not about being fair- it's about us acting just/righteous.


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