“Life is not fair” is a common mantra shared at the most inopportune moments. Most of the time it’s a reminder that you aren’t going to get what you want. But despite our distaste for the phrase (at least when it’s used against us), we know it’s true. Life just isn’t fair.
As parents, however, we sometimes act as if it’s our job to make life fair for our kids. We might even go to great lengths for the cause!
Imagine the temptation to be fair in situations such as these:
- Your child’s birthday is coming up, and the birthday kid is convinced he should have a sleepover party because that’s what his sister had on her birthday.
- One of your teens wants to have a new phone because her brother got one at her age.
- You compute the amount of money spent on one kid’s Christmas gift and feel guilty because you didn’t spend as much on your other child.
- One child got a little extra dessert and now everyone expects more.
- You feel bad that some of your kids have a sport and the other ones haven’t found their niche.
While we we should show love to all of our children, should fairness really be the deciding factor in those scenarios? Not to say fairness should be avoided, but how high of a priority should it be?
It’s possible we’ll set our kids up for more success by not always working to avoid life’s naturally unfair moments. Occasional inequality may even have a few benefits.
The Classroom of Life
When it comes to fairness, it’s good to first remember that God doesn’t make life fair for each of his kids. He is just, no doubt. But he allows us to have all different types of experiences – both good and bad. He loves us all, he is good to us all, but fairness is not his aim. So it’s hardly fair (ha) to assume good parents are always fair.
On a practical level it’s also good to remember that when your kids leave your home, life will not be fair. Whether for good reasons or bad, your children will become adults who’s lives are marked by inequity. In other words, if they’ve come to believe everything is supposed to be equal, adult life will come with a shocking blow.
But one of the best reasons to let life be unfair at times, is the way it can grow a child’s character.
The Best Benefit of Unfairness
Humans are selfish. We want what we want when we want it, and we get worked up when we don’t get it. That’s one reason we hate when life isn’t fair; we don’t want to not have what other people have. We may even throw ourselves a pity party when others have (or experience) something good and we don’t.
So when life is not fair we realize how self-focused we are and then we get some serious practice putting other’s interest above our own (Philippians 2:3-4).
To put it another way, the everyday small disappointments are an opportunity for our kids to get their eyes off of themselves by learning how to be happy for others. In fact, that’s what I might say, “Sorry, you can’t have _____ (fill in with whatever they wish they got), but let’s try and be happy your sister is getting to enjoy it.” And of course I sometimes remind them that they’re often the recipient of good things that others don’t get too. But in that unfair moment it’s a chance to be glad for someone else!
Why would we steal this opportunity from our kids by working overtime to make everything equal?
Of course, the point is not to look for ways to make life unfair, but we also don’t need to avoid it when it naturally comes up.
All that to say, moms, don’t feel burdened to make everything fair. When that type of “mom guilt” sneaks up, remind yourself that your kids are gaining great character training when life’s not fair. You may be actually loving them more by not robbing them of some great life lessons!