While hearing the refrain, “That’s not fair” comes when someone is not getting an emotional need met, many times it occurs when the rules are not followed, or it is perceived that someone has an unfair advantage by bending the rules. No matter where we find ourselves, playing a game with the family, a competitive team sport, in the corporate world or when competing for a grant to help a good cause there are rules and expectations that we expect everyone will be following.
There are times though that one family member forgets whose turn it is, or an opposing team does not follow the rules, or there is an underhanded dealing in our work, and things are not fair for all of the competitors. Every culture, organization, competition has both rules and ethics that have been agreed to or are understood by most parties and our understanding them helps us to conduct ourselves in a way that makes everyone appreciate how much we value the virtue of fairness.
To help our children understand that all of us need to work within the rules and ethics of the groups, we belong to we can use something as simple as having a driver’s license. The rules of the road are there, so we take turns at intersections, know which side of the road to drive on, and what all the signs on the road mean. These keep us safe. There are also ethics and good manners involved. While there may not be a rule about who gets a parking space, ethics, good manners say that if someone has their blinker on indicating their desire for a parking space, that we do not jump in front of them – just because we could. It is the fair thing to do.
When bringing out the best in our children fairness can be acknowledged in them when we see them;
- taking turns in a game,
- sharing food (especially a dessert) or toys,
- when they had not complained about the time you needed to make for their sibling when they were sick, or
- after a game that everyone did follow the rules.
Later you will recognize them for playing in competitive sports without complaining to a referee or about a bad grade they received on a school paper.
Look for those small occasions of fairness and point them out as such so that at a later time when they are upset about something that does not feel fair to them, you can guide them to being fair with others and they will have a good understanding what fairness looks like in your family.
Fairness is a virtue that involves our respect for others and giving them the dignity everyone deserves. It is the practice of justice for everyone, even when we wish that things had a different outcome.