“That’s not fair!” is a common cry among tweens. Tweens are very focused on fairness. But is fairness something you discuss as a family? In talking about fairness, parents may be able to help tweens come to grips with the fact that world is not always a fair place. That's a tough realization for kids, but as one saying goes, "'Fair' is where you get cotton candy."
That said, parents don't want their child to be treated unfairly nor they do want children who do not value fairness and fair behavior.
Like all parenting discussions, timing is key. When a child is loudly yelling about fairness is not a great time. A calm, rational moment, perhaps at family dinner, is best and a parent can start the conversation by discussing something recent that they found to be an example of very fair behavior, or bringing up something that seems inherently unfair. Ideas for the discussion:
- Ask your tweens how they define fairness.
- Have them tell you about a recent time at school or an activity that they saw some behavior that seemed fair, and another time where a situation seemed very unfair. It can be anything from who got called on in class to a decision by a referee regarding their favorite sports team.
- Talk about what is fair in your the family, such as sharing, division of chores, etc. As a parent, perhaps point out something that is not fair for you. I'm going to guess that you do more than your "fair" share of chores.
- Front the issue that, unfortunately, life is not always fair. In my family, we referred to this concept with the phrase big cookies and little cookies, explained here. Tell your tween about a time that you found a lack of fairness to be frustrating, and how you handled it. Also talk about what you do to make things as fair as possible. In talking about the unfair behavior, discuss it on a spectrum. Some unfair behavior may suck, but not have a major life impact. Tweens often forget that not everything is going to have hugely significant consequence on the rest of their life. Remind them of that.
Why do this?
1. It can be a fascinating discussion. Part of the fun of tweens is their ability to converse share their sometimes fascinating and occasionally hilarious views on the world.
2. The discussion is a chance to share your views with your tween. This is a tough topic for tweens, and knowing that you sympathize with them can be helpful. It's also a chance to explain that while you'd like the world to be completely fair, and you yourself try to be fair, you acknowledge that complete fairness may not be possible at all times in all circumstances.
3. While your tween may completely abandon rationality during an emotional time, and you will likely still hear the “It’s not fair! You’re not fair!” protests, when they calm down, you can refer to your prior conversation as a touchstone.
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