“It’s not fair! He gets a bigger muffin than me!”
“It’s not fair! She gets to stay up later than me.”
“It’s not fair; we always read his story book first.”
“It’s not fair. I never get to sit in the front.”
“It’s not fair. I always get more homework than he does.”
If you’re a parent, this will sound all too familiar (perhaps more so when accompanied with a whiney intonation and the stamp of a foot.) The fairness debate is one we have in our house on a near daily basis. At any given point, one of our two will likely feel aggrieved that they’re being treated differently – usually less favourably – to the other. I often hear myself rationalising the disparity leading to the perceived unfairness, sometimes sensibly, other times less so, but always with the intent of explaining the difference and minimising the feeling of the lack of fairness, or factually stating why it is that someone is being treated differently.
“Well, your sister is older so she gets to stay up a little later, and remember you had extra time with mummy this morning because you were up first.” (Usually a time beginning with ‘6’ and on a day beginning with ‘S’)
“Yes, he might have got the biggest muffin, but yours had extra chocolate chips on top, so that balances it out.”
“She gets to sit in the front because she is taller and weighs more, so it’s safer for her to do so than it is for you.”
“Yes, I see that the yellow cup is bigger, but the orange one is really fun with the lid and the straw
Okay– I’m not sure I’d buy that last one either…
Mostly the rational explanations will suffice and are understood, but the initial feeling of unfairness is very real. Our five year old might claim it to be unfair, but as yet he hasn’t laboured the ‘she gets to stay up later than me’ point when his eyes are repeatedly closing and he can’t string a sentence together for yawning his head off. That’s what getting up a silly o’clock does for you.
Whilst most of the ‘it’s not fair’ grumbles from the kids don’t relate to the big things in life, I feel the lessons from these minor things are indeed important for our children. Playing fair, with one another, friends at home, classmates at school and in the sports teams they are part of, is something we encourage. The same goes for loyalty to the passionately supported football team, even when they’re on a losing streak; loyalty to a friend who has been there since day one despite the new girl next door having a new flicker scooter she lets you play with. Respecting one another, our views and opinions, our space and our possessions is equally important. Respecting others to the extent that you would only ever want to be fair and equitable with them feels basic.
As I’ve gotten older, and had to deal with grown up stuff like buying a new car, engaging with utility companies, meeting the kids teachers, sorting mortgages, general banking, dining out – I’ve become more attuned to what’s permissibly fair and what’s not.
Being loyal to an insurance company for over ten years but discovering my insurance premium continues to increase year after year, despite no claims, but new customers are guaranteed no premium increases in the first five years seems unfair.
Dining out and finding that the couple at the table beside us are tucking in to 25% off their bill simply because they booked on line (as they later told me, via their smart phone whilst standing directly outside the restaurant) whilst we just walked straight in and requested a table – that’ll make your Pollo Rigatoni stick in your throat.
Being greeted warmly by an enthusiastic and exuberant salesman and offered an attractive package to a TV subscription service as I wander through the local shopping centre trying to keep my eye on two kids who are compelled to run in completely opposite directions – only then to be told the super duper extra special offer wouldn’t apply to me as we already had the service in our family home (my husband being the existing customer whose name was at the top of the monthly (exorbitant) direct debit.) He didn’t seem all that warm to me after he determined I was by default already an existing customer. Perhaps I should have followed the kids lead and ran in the opposite direction at that first over the top ‘Good Morning Madam!’
Thankfully, one Bank getting it just right at the moment, and recognising loyalty by not ignoring existing customers is RBS. They’re saying goodbye to their top offers only being reserved for new customers (just as I should have done to the shopping centre salesman). They are saying goodbye and good riddance to the practice of hiding the best deals online, they are banishing 0% teaser rates that work out more expensive in the long run and are simply now saying hello to fairer banking. This I warm to.
Check out this fairness experiment from RBS:
The kids found this video hilarious – a talking sofa – who’d have thought?! But they got the point. It wasn’t fair that existing folks got chivvied along just because some new punters were approaching. They didn’t think it was fair that some people were getting things and others were not. Fairness in their words is making sure everyone feels good about what they get or have. It’s about treating people in a kind way and not differently to others. Fairness is about everyone having the same sized muffin – or at the very least a muffin that is just the right size for them! And whilst we were on the topic, our little monster thought it was a prime opportunity to remind me about the time nigh on three weeks ago when his sister got to play on the Xbox for a whole five minutes more than him, and he’d like that time recouped, thank you very much. It’s only fair after all!
I’m working with Britmums and RBS on this project and have been compensated. All opinions are my own. (Especially the one about 6am being too early to get up!)