Parenting Tip: Fair Does Not Mean Equal

The Situation

Are you ever drawn into your children’s fights over who got more?

Do they whine that the other got off “easy”?

Do you hear endless cries of “It’s not fair”?


The Tip

Here’s a tip which can help:

Teach your children that “fair” does not mean “equal.”

Why Kids Care about Equal

Developmentally, children are into equality. They often want whatever others have and they want the same amount.

  • Younger children may want the same privileges as older siblings, like having a later bedtime.
  • Older children may complain that less is required from a younger sibling, like not expecting them to help clean up.
  • And one may grumble when you may spend more time with a child who is preparing for a big test, only to have the tables turn the next week when you spend more time with the first child who is practicing for a school play.


A Time to Teach

sign that says fair is not equalWhen you hear these complaints, you can teach your children that everyone in the family is treated fairly (although not necessarily equally) based on his or her needs and age.

  • An older child being allowed to stay up later is fair because physically the child may need less sleep and because certain privileges come with age.
  • The younger child may have easier chores because he does not have the ability to do more.
  • And you focus extra attention on the one who needs it when he needs it.


Additional Thoughts

While in the midst of your children’s protests about fairness, you can let them know you understand how they are feeling. Acknowledge their disappointment and listen to their complaints.

But rather than trying to make things exactly the same, teach your kids that your family treats each of them fairly based on what each one needs and who each child is.

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