Why does my child keep saying, “It’s not fair”?

“Billy got to sleep at his friend’s house and I didn’t.”

“You let Courtney stay up and watch TV. It’s not fair!”

Kids these ages have a heightened awareness of what is or what isn’t fair, but they often make judgments based on how they feel at the moment, not on what makes sense or seems reasonable. A child who got two new shirts last week may yell “unfair” when her sister gets one new one this week.

One child was invited by a friend’s family to a baseball game that wouldn’t end until late in the evening. The child’s mother, knowing her family had to get up early the next morning, declined the invitation. The child was devastated. “You’re unfair! I never get to do anything!” Nothing her parents said made any difference.

Parents face a dilemma in such situations. They want to explain their actions and they want their child to know that life often is unfair. Yet, in emotional moments, kids don’t listen. All they know is what they feel.

Parents also want to please their child. But when she’s very upset about alleged unfairness, nothing will make her happy except getting her way. This is difficult for parents to understand. They may feel hurt and wonder if their child is the only one who acts this way. Actually, such outbursts are so common that parents of early elementary-aged children should simply expect them to happen.

When a child is very angry about unfairness, parents can try to soothe her feelings, offer distractions, or leave her to calm down on her own. In some cases, she may need to spend time alone in her room until she can control herself. Some kids recover quickly while others remain angry and unhappy for an afternoon or evening. Eventually, time heals these temporary wounds.

What parents should avoid doing is lecturing their child when she’s caught up in her feelings of unfairness. At such times, no one, child or adults, wants to hear about the unfairness of the world. It’s especially difficult for a six- to nine-year-old to pay attention to other people’s misfortunes when she’s feeling personally mistreated.

Talk to your child about her feelings at a calm time: “I know you were disappointed about not seeing the movie. Sometimes we have to accept when things don’t go our way.” Gradually introduce the larger issues of unfairness. Tell her about others who are less fortunate than she is, about people who learn to live with difficult problems. You can also talk about your own experiences. When she is angry, she’ll roll her eyes and complain if you say, “When I was your age…” At a calmer time, however, she may enjoy hearing about your early years and may understand that she has much to be thankful for.

If your child is saying, “You’re not fair!” over and over, you should pay close attention. You may find truth in her complaints. Perhaps she does have more chores than her brother; perhaps she doesn’t get to do as much as her sister does; perhaps you’ve been working long hours and are unavailable when she needs you. If you’re willing to look at her situation and make some modifications, she may start feeling better.

Often, small changes make a big difference. If you can’t change your work schedule, you can still plan a special weekend with your children. And you can alter the way you treat them so that one sibling doesn’t always feel short-changed.

Unfortunately, it’s true that life is unfair, and you’ll hear occasional complaints about this from your child. She may be unhappy about incidents at home, school, or with friends. One child worked for a week on his science project, only to lose the class prize to a child who put together a display at the last minute: “It’s not fair. Kira’s wasn’t even good!” Disappointment is inevitable. Encourage her to find worth in doing her best, regardless of the judgment of others. Help her to change unfair situations that can be remedied, and trust that, with your love, support, and positive example, she’ll learn to accept some unfairness that can’t be changed.

Picture Credit : Google