It’s too long. I can’t remember when was the first time J and K started to argue over what’s fair and what’s not. It’s as old as history.
I only know that lately their quarrels, sometimes even over tiny things, intensify to a level that I can’t stand anymore. They happen too often and over things that are getting smaller.
They try to uphold fairness in almost everything. If one party has not done something equally, the other party will start complaining. Oftentimes, this leads to unhappiness in all.
“It’s time for me to use the bathroom downstairs.”
“I do dishes more than you do. It’s your time.”
“This time you put away the toys. I did it the last time.”
“It’s your turn to wipe the table.”
After talking to some friends, I realize that this “unfairness” thingy happens in almost every household. It’s kind of a universal phenomenon.
To be honest, I don’t have the solution. Only the children do. I realize that I can’t rush J and K to reach for a solution (We tried it. Neither can rewards solve this problem).
In other words, I have to be patient to wait for the right time for this to happen.
And it seems that the moment is right for them.
This morning, K came down from upstairs with a big frown on his face. He complained that his sister asked him to be responsible for the task of turning on and off the air-purifier in the bedroom… EVERYDAY!
(I know how petty that is!)
As he related what happened, he cried uncontrollably as he found that this “arrangement” had violated his definition of fairness.
“How could I do this everyday? What about my sis? She doesn’t need to do anything? It’s so unfair!” These thoughts must be swirling in K’s mind.
What would you do if you were me?
It’s of no use if you try to reason with a child when he feels something is unfair – no matter how ridiculous that might be from your perspective.
That’s what I did. Unlike normal circumstances, this time I tried to understand how K felt. I acknowledged his feeling of unfairness. He calmed down and got himself freshened up.
After breakfast, K reminded me to talk to J about the incident. I was very sure I wanted to stay out of this and I only played the role of a mediator between them.
As I said before, only the kids can solve this problem of being unfair. I can’t.
I signaled to K to start the discussion since he wanted to talk about the incident. K started the discussion by telling J that it’s unfair to let him to do the task alone. He felt that J should share the “burden.”
“Since both of you want fairness, let’s come up with a solution on how to achieve this.” I suggested.
“………” J and K were quiet for some time.
I chipped in, “If I were you, I would not be so petty and calculative. Who turns on or off is not important. It doesn’t really bother me. But if you want fairness, then let’s come up with a solution that both of you agree.”
I tried to lead them to solve the problem.
There’s still silence in the room. I poked J to say something. J said she didn’t have the answer.
I re-iterated that if they wanted fairness, they needed a solution.
This time, J said something while tears welled up in her eyes. Yes she was sobbing.
What she said really shocked me!
“I don’t want fair or not fair anymore! Anyone who wants to use the air-purifier can turn it on. Likewise, anyone who doesn’t want to use it can turn it off.” J said amidst sobbing.
I really liked what I heard! This was the answer I had been waiting to hear from them. It finally came.
Only getting rid of it can solve the problem because the act of maintaining fairness is fundamentally flawed and there’s no way to maintain fairness 100% correctly and accurately. One party will find something unfair even though it’s fair to the rest. There’s no way everyone will give and take on a fair basis.
Now this is the best part…
J took it one step further. She also wants the same rule applied to taking bath in the bathroom downstairs – a problem that has bothered them for so long! She doesn’t want to take turns to use the bathroom anymore. Whoever wants to use it can do so. She in fact proposed to abolish the wall of fairness.
I recapped what J proposed to eliminate any confusion and misunderstanding. Both of them seemed happy with the solution.
I asked K if he had anything to say. He said softly, “Thank you, sis.”
Another reply that I didn’t expect. I thought he would say something like “Okay.”
His reply showed that he also wanted a solution similar to what J had proposed. But due to ego, they both refused to get rid of the act of maintaining fairness. Now that J had indicated that she didn’t want to maintain fairness unnecessarily, K was also happy and relieved.
In fact, J was also relieved. It’s like she just removed a big stone off her shoulders. I praised her for taking the bold step to come up with the ego-free solution that her heart craved.
I hope J and K will not fight over petty matters for being treated unfairly from now on.
Now we shall see where this arrangement will lead them to next…
Next, to be fair, check out my “The Nonconformist’s Guide to Parenting.”
More details at:
The Nonconformist’s Guide to Parenting