What is fair? Helping young people learn about fairness

its-not-fairWhat is fair?  When we are young the answer to that question may seem easier to answer than when we get older.  From a young person I can hear them saying – “Hey he got more than me – that’s not fair”, or “I wanted the red ones – that’s not fair”, or “I wanted to go first – that’s not fair”.  Then as a parent we are left to settle this situation.

Fairness is seen from the eye of the beholder.  When a particular need is not met, or if they do not get what they wanted, or feel like they have been slighted it may be seen as not being FAIR.  Being fair does not mean that everything will always be totally equal though, or that we will get everything that we want.  There are other factors that play into the question of fairness and it can get quite complicated and even messy.

Is this a fair division of the pie?
Is this a fair division of the pie?

For example, How would you divide a pie up if you had to serve eight people?  First reaction is divide the pie into 8 equal pieces and serve them equally.  When you learn that two of the eight were below the age of 3, two were teenage boys, and the rest were adults – would that change your answer?  Of course it would, as a 2 year old does not need as much as a teenage boy, in fact it would not be good for them.  What if one of the boys had an allergy to gluten, and would be sick from eating this pie?  Would that change what was fair then?  Should you even serve pie at all, is it fair for the others to forgo eating pie because of the allergy of one.

Your answers are most likely going to be based on your personal experiences and possibly on the influence of others who are with you at that moment.  In our discussions about fairness with our students, one of the big lessons learned was the need to listen to the thoughts of others.  When there is a dilemma of fairness, hearing many points of view and the arguments of others will help us formulate an answer to fairness.  

Helping our children to understand the guiding principles of fairness and then learn to combine them with other character skills like empathy and kindness, will create more peaceful relationships in our homes, classrooms and community.  This month we are discussing fairness with all of our students.  Their comments and viewpoints have been very interesting.