The Fairness of Parenting

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“Never be afraid to take a good idea.”  Those were the words of a high school teacher I’ll never forget.  Mr. Johnson taught me many things but these are the words I’ll remember the most.  It’s in this vain that I have to give credit to where this blog idea came from.  Over the weekend, I listened to the homily of Father Jeff Nicholas at the Cathedral of the Assumption.  One of his main points was that God is not fair.  God is love.  The way he articulated his points really struck a chord with me.  This post is dedicated to him.

I’ve never really thought of myself as a tough but fair parent.  I’m confident that I am tough. Fair is completely different.  My view on parenting is to give children what they need (and hopefully sprinkle in some desires along the way).  The thing is though the kids I have worked with have had different needs because children simply aren’t the same.  On a broad spectrum, I understand children need shelter, food, and love.  But, looking at them more closely, things are a bit different and they are not always fair.

Here’s an easy example of what I mean.  Let’s say I have two boys who are the same age.  One boy struggles in math so I tutor him an extra half hour every day to help him along.  Fairness, on the surface, dictates I should tutor the other boy as well.  Whether I actually do that or not depends on his strengths/weaknesses.  If the second boy is brilliant in math, my time with him may be spent doing something else academically.  Even the time I work with him may not be the same as the first child depending on his ability to effectively pay attention.

Let’s get into a more difficult issue such as discipline.  This time, I will use two girls who are the same age.  Let’s pretend both of them misbehave in the exact same manner.  Do you think I should consequence them in the same way?  That, of course, would be the fair thing to do.  But whether I take this approach or not really depend on the children.  When I discipline, I want to press their “buttons” inside them so that it will be known that their actions were inappropriate.   If time out works for one girl but doesn’t really affect the other, why should I be fair?  The more appropriate thing to do with the girl that time out doesn’t work is to give a different consequence which is more effective for that child.

Practically speaking, this approach can be difficult. I have little doubt that I will be challenged by a reader or two (which is always encouraged).  Nevertheless, one of my main teaching tenets to parents focuses on individual responsibility.  I really believe I would have trouble with this concept while working with children if I treated every child the same although it would be fair.

My mother used to tell me “life’s not fair.”  The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.  Whether you agree with this post or not- thanks so much for reading!  I will have another blog ready on Friday.  Take care of yourselves and your family!

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6 comments

  1. I agree wholeheartedly! You can't take a cookie-cutter approach to parenting in any aspect. All children are different and though it may not seem "fair" is it really fair to do something that doesn't work? Good post!

  2. The baseline rules should be the same for each child, but handling consequences should be appropriate to age, developmental level, temperament, etc. If they were all the same…what a boring world it would be!

  3. Lexie Lane says:

    Great post! It does all make sense because whether the child likes it or not, it's best to discipline them individually because we are by nature all made to be different right?

  4. Sharon says:

    Thanks for linking up to the Real Life Blog Linkup. We have 3 kids and are always trying to make sure we are helping them grow into the adults they need to be – even if it's not always fun! Thanks for sharing! I love to read and review books on my blog as well. I would really love to read your book Tantrums, Troubles and Treasures. Would you be interested in sending me a copy to read, review and offer as a giveaway? Thanks again! Sharon

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