For most kids, the discovery that the world isn't always fair comes as a shock. After all, we're always reminding our children to follow the rules, take turns and share their chocolate chip cookies. When life doesn't fall in line with those rules, our kids are taken aback.
Kids as young as 4 can understand the idea of fairness, although a young child's concept of fairness is mostly shaped by his own desires. But by the age of 9 or 10, children are able to look beyond their own needs to the needs and opinions of others. That's why this is a great time to start helping your child move toward real empathy and understanding toward other people. Try these ideas for encouraging true fairness:
Talk over the details. When your child experiences something she considers unfair, ask a few probing questions. Who seemed to act unfairly toward her? Where were they when the incident took place? What else was happening? Many times as you talk through the seemingly trivial details, you'll discover that what your child perceived as unfairness was actually some thing else altogether. Perhaps the person she thought was unkind was actually just distracted or not feeling well.
Find real-life examples. Show your child that most of the time, we get what we deserve in life. The student who studies will get a better grade than the one who doesn't. The child who does all his chores around the house will receive his allowance. If your child is unhappy with the consequences of his actions, gently encourage him to look at what he might have done to bring about that result, then help him think of ways to get a better result next time.
Teach life lessons about unfairness. It's an unfortunate, but true fact of life that sometimes things just aren't fair. Now is the time for you to help your child accept this part of life and learn from it. Talk about what wasn't fair and what could have been done to make it fairer. Talk about how it feels and then look at how the whole experience can provide a new attitude and outlook on her own behavior.
Talk to God. Use these moments of frustration and confusion to turn together to God for guidance and understanding. He understands unfairness, too, and is there to listen.
Mother of four
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