Kids and Fairness

Kids are obsessed with fairness. The consistency with which children will say “that’s not fair” given the opportunity is impressive. If a situation can possibly be put into terms of “fairness”, a child with use fairness as a weapon of protest - everything from their sibling getting something the child didn’t get to being told they can’t go to a particular event that their friends are going to.

Adults are tempted to respond to these pleas for fairness with a dose of reality. “Life isn’t fair,” they’ll often say, and it’s true! There is almost nothing about life that is fair, and while humans do make efforts to inject fairness into an otherwise unfair world, fairness is the exception, not the rule. It doesn’t work though, at least it didn’t on me. I remember being a child obsessed with fairness and what snapped me out of that obsession. It wasn’t when I realized the world isn’t fair because I think most of us figure that out pretty damn early. It was when I started to get more freedom to make my own choices that I largely gave up my quest to demand fairness.

I think children can handle more than we think. I certainly felt this way when I was a kid. I think it’s so easy to look at people of any age and see a fragile mess that needs to be managed because we are such fragile little messes! We’re silly apes who tell each other stories in a world that is trying to kill us, and yet, the average one of us lives almost 80 years. You can’t ascribe that level of survival success to flawless centralized risk management by authority figures. Rather, I think the truth is we’re capable of more at every stage of our life than it appears, and when we get the chance to do more, we feel better. We feel more confident. We let go of some of our silly battles, like the battle to demand fairness of a world that will never deliver it.

I wrote this down not because I think I’m qualified to give parenting, teaching or other types of child rearing advice. My only real interactions with kids in any type of mentor/teacher role over the last 10 years has been coaching a few seasons of youth basketball. Rather, I’m writing this because as I drift farther from my childhood, there are very specific feelings I had as a kid that I don’t want to forget. This is one of them. People crave (deserve?) autonomy and children are no exceptions.

 
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