Stop Trying to be Fair
When I was young, my Mom used to say, “Mr. Fair is dead.” What she meant was that each of us siblings were different. No two of us were wired similarly nor were we motivated by the same things. She figured out what it has taken countless years of research to convince others of - people are different and equal treatment can actually be detrimental! She rewarded us, inspired us, and guided us each uniquely. Comparison would sell us the lie that Mom was “unfair” but she quickly nipped that in the bud as she would say her favorite line and explain that uniqueness and individuality trumped fairness and conformity in her home. Mom wanted us to embrace our individuality while maintaining compassion for those who were different or challenged in different ways than we were.
As parents, Analyn and I seek to model a strengths based focus with our kids. We have taken what we have learned from Mom along with countless other leaders in the field and developed a model in our home where each child is parented uniquely. We expect the best of each of them, and hold ourselves to the same expectations based on their strengths. We have learned that when we set high expectations for our kids, and trust them to make the right choices, they rise to the level of our expectations. That is the beauty of a strengths based approach! When we compare and focus on fairness and uniformity in parenting we actually discourage or suppress our kids from pursuing their greatness.
This certainly does not happen all at once, it requires repetition of truth. We must remind our kids often how we see them, and how he/she has what it takes to meet the expectations we set. No two of our seven children has the same expectations from us. Each has to be treated with a different standard of measurement based on who they are and the strengths they possess. This does not mean we hold different standards or morals. Those remain consistent. But when it comes to their level of achievement, we treat each kid differently based on their different personalities and strengths.
Parents are on stage every day. What we do, more than what we say, gives clues to our kids as to what we expect of ourselves and them. Never pass the buck for your accomplishments, own your effort and take responsibility for the outcomes. Teaching our kids to steward their strengths is an important life lesson. Mom was right, life really isn’t fair so as parents we have to stop striving for fairness in the home. Be ok with individualized parenting strategies for each child. Play to your kid’s strengths and teach them to respect rather than compare themselves with the differences they see and experience around them in life.