Fairness and our personal responsibility

fairnessIn a world where it seems that every child is awarded a trophy for just being on the team, for showing up – or because “he tried real hard”, the question comes up: Is it always fair for everyone to be in the same class, learning the same material at the exact same time and rate?  Is it fair for everyone to get everything in life equally without regard to the effort they put forth or the results they achieve?

Could it be that one child has more talent at this given time, has put forth more effort, spent more time practicing, and therefore is just better than another person who has put forth little effort and just expects that they will be awarded with a prize for showing up.

On the other side of that question – is it possible that there has been favoritism shown for some over others, they have been given preferable time to practice or the team has been built with only the best players.   Fairness is not just giving the same amount or same thing to everyone.  While it is important to give to all what they need and deserve, it is also important that when given that opportunity and what appears to be ‘more’ than others that we show appreciation by our own actions.
How disgraceful it would be, to be given the extra time and attention – and then not put forth the effort to improve, or to take for granted and just expect that we should always get that attention no matter what our own efforts and actions are.  Getting what we need, deserve and is appropriate comes with the responsibility to use it and put forth our own efforts to reach our goals.

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.

Life Skills: Fairness – The Definition

Word of monthEach month we will discuss a life skill with all of our students. This month the word is Fairness.  This word will be defined in the following ways for our students.

Young students: Fairness means: We all receive what we deserve and need!

Older students: Fairness means:  Treating others according to what is needed, deserved and appropriate.

Each age group has a worksheet that parents can use to continue the discussion at home with their children, and one for adults to allow them to think more deeply about the skill and how it applies to them. Would you like to receive the worksheet? Stop by our studio at 133 Gibralter Avenue in Annapolis, MD and tell us the age of your child. We will give you a worksheet and invite you to watch Mr. Joe discuss the word with the students in class.  You can also follow our discussions here on this website.

If you would like to become a member of Balanced Life Skills, come TRY CLASSES FOR FREE.   We are not your typical after school activity, in fact we are an education center, working with our students on physical skills along with empowering families with compassion, awareness and respect – creating a culture of peace – through the arts.  We believe in every child and build their self – confidence.  Balanced Life Skills takes part in community service and encourages each student to do the same.

Fairness: Listening to the whole story

Teaching children about listening is more than just getting them to listen to us as their parent or teacher.  If we would like to help them to develop good leadership skills, then we must also teach them to listen to the whole story.  Listening to the whole story prior to coming to a conclusion will save ourselves from embarrassment and our relationships with others.  Here is one way we may be able to do that.

To start conversations with a child you may want to use what I call, “What if”  questions.  “What if I walked into the room and I saw _______standing in the middle of a big mess?”  Who would I might think made the mess?  If I saw that I might want to say to ________ “clean up!”  Is that fair?  Would it not be a better question to ask, “what happened?”  and hear the whole story?  We may find out that someone else made the mess, or that the person was in the middle of cleaning up the mess.  Listening makes things fair.

Practicing this ourselves and taking the time to help our children see how and why we ask such questions will help them to do the same as they come into situations with their friends.

Listening Required to be Fair

If one part of fairness means that we will not blame others for mistakes that we make, then it must also mean that we will not judge others until we listened to all sides of the story.  Frank Tyger is quoted as saying, “Listening to both sides of a story will convince you that there is more to a story than both sides.”

Being sure that we listen to everyone, allows each person to have their say from the point of view that they saw the events.   Our personal perspective is always colored by our past experiences, what we want to be true, and relationships.

Being a leader though requires us to listen carefully, ask questions, respect the views of others, in order to make all things fair.  While true for all people and situations, this is especially true for parents as we deal with siblings and friends.  Our children will have their view of what took place in a disagreement and many times we will have either pre-determined who did the bad deed,  or we feel like we do not have the time to listen to all the details and just punish everyone.

Neither is fair, and teaches our children that they do not have to listen to all sides before making a decision.  Setting this example of fairness

will help our children make better judgements of situations and people as they grow up.

Fairness: Doing our fair share

If saying please and thank you are the first manners that parents teach their children, then sharing is very close to the top of the list also.  When we share it makes things fair for everyone involved and it is a way of developing relationships.  As our young children learn about sharing, there will be times when it is easier than other times, times when they want to and times when they would rather not.

One idea of sharing though that may be overlooked from time to time, is the idea of “doing our share”.   It is valuable for every child to feel like they are a part of the team / family.  Now if we worked on a team at school or at work and one person on the team had no responsibilities that person may not really feel that they were part of the team.  They had no role to play or actions to take.  They would be left out.

The same is true with our children.  It is important for them to be a part of the team and to share in the activities / chores that the team does.  Taking part on the team in this manner will teach them to share the responsibility for the work that needs to be done, their part in chores and a sense of belonging to something bigger than just themselves.  Doing your fair share is very important for every family member.