Guest Post: Helping Kids Understand Fairnes

Kids should be taught about fairness from their earliest interactions with others not only from parents, but nannies and caregivers as well . . . when they steal their buddy’s toy for the first time, for example.  One-year-olds do not have the ability to conceive of the concept of fairness, but the lesson should be given nonetheless.  By the time kids are four to six years old, most are able to conceptualize fairness.  In order for that cognition to happen at four to six years of age, however, the lesson must have been supported by the preceding years’ consistent messages reinforcing that lesson.

How you define fairness is essential.  The definition of fairness should encompass consideration for all people involved and short-term and long-term consequences.  Fairness, then, sometimes dictates that an individual must be denied something “due” him/her in order for the greater good to occur. Fairness, as a matter of character, should include the concept of selfless generosity without expectation of commensurate payback.  It is not reasonable to give kids the expectation that evenly dividing things is always fair.  There are times when that is not fair, not reasonable, or simply not possible.  For example, if best friends John and Jane both have equal claim to a toy, but only one of them can have the toy for the desired period of time, then perhaps John or Jane can exhibit selfless generosity and relinquish claim to the toy for the desired period of time out of deference to the other child’s claim.  It is not reasonable to give kids the expectation that fairness is a consistently achievable goal.  While fairness should consistently be sought, it cannot consistently be achieved.  To foster the perception that fairness can be consistently achieved is to set your kids up for disappointment.

How you look for fairness is also essential.  No two people are alike, but no one is better than/worse than someone else in general.  Every person has unique value, individual strengths, and worth.  Let’s look at John and Jane.  John may be better than Jane at performing some specific task (for example, playing football), but Jane may be better than John at performing some other specific task (for example, calculating mathematical equations).  Neither John nor Jane is better than the other in general . . . both have value, strengths, and worth.  Both football and math skills are needed to make our world operate as it does.  Our world may not reward all people equally, as we see some people garner more praise or success than others, but kids can (and should) be shown than true validation comes from within.  Often, by the time kids reach high school, academic youth speak about the unfairness of athletes getting all the attention.  The issue, however, should be reframed to this: does each child get the attention s/he needs to do well in his/her field of interest (i.e., football or math, in the example above)?  Do they feel good about what they do?  Are they satisfied with how they are doing?  There will always be kids with more or fewer toys, more or less praise, greater or less success in some area . . . but what matters is that each child values and is content with what s/he does, has, and is . . . which should not be weighed relative to what someone else does, has and is.

In the final analysis, fairness is a subjective assessment: what seems fair to one person may seem unfair to another.  Happy people (both kids and adults) perceive fairness as a give-and-take, win-some-lose-some, proposition.  These people take their “lose-some” incidents in stride because they know that everyone has “win-some” incidents (or opportunities for them) right around each corner.

Candi Wingate is an expert in the child care industry with over 20 years experience. She is the founder of and, and author of 100 Tips for Nannies & Families and The Nanny Factor: A Parent’s Guide to Finding the Right Nanny for Your Family

No comments: