Kids and "It's Not Fair" Concept

OK I was in the store today and behind a mother with two kids. Both girls and they looked about 5 and 6.

And the one girls says “It’s not fair,she get’s candy and I don’t”

The mother says, “I told you, if you clean your room you can have a candy bar. Your sister cleaned her room and you didn’t clean your room, so she gets one and you don’t”

OK fair enough, but the “candy bar-less” little girl still protest, “But it’s not fair she gets candy.”

Now I don’t have any kids, so here’s my question to parents.

In this particular case, did the little girl really not understand this and did she REALLY think she was being treated unfairly.

Seems to be a five (or six) year old is able to understand the concept of “Clean your room = get a candy bar” and she was using the “It’s not fair” as just an excuse.

What do you parents think in a case like this

Stuff she doesn’t like is felt as personal injustice. She doesn’t have the vocabulary to articulate “I want a free candy bar and I don’t like it that my brown-nosing sister is getting one when I don’t! I want to have my cake and eat it too!” So it comes out as “It’s not fair!”

Isn’t this in the Parenting for Dummies book? You respond ‘Life’s not fair’, just like your parents did.

Recounting from another thread (this time without all the fuss beforehand), the time to reason with a child is when the child is being reasonable. This was not one of those times.

Well TirPolar you are correct, I was just trying to understand it from a child’s viewpoint?

By saying “It’s not fair” would the child really believe she was being wronged? Or do you think the child knew darn well she didn’t deserve the candy bar, and was just using the “it’s not fair” as an excuse in hopes to guilt her mum into getting her one too?

I was thinking back to when I was a kid, and it seems by age five or six, I understood the “rewards” concept

It’s going to depend on the child and the situation. I tried to get my kids to understand the concepts, but I didn’t expect them to act much differently because of that.

I think in general the child is saying it feels unfair, not that they are expressing a rational argument.

The mom was making a number of parenting mistakes:

  1. Never use food as a reward. Teaching your kid to equate getting candy with being good is not a great way to help them learn how to eat responsibly.

  2. In any case, normal household duties should not be rewarded with treats. You do your chores because everyone in the household pitches in, not because you get something in exchange.

  3. Punishments should follow the inciting incident as closely as possible. The longer a punishment is deferred, the more unjust it feels.

  4. Avoid setting up situations where one sibling resents the other. Sure, some sibling rivalry is going to happen no matter what you do. But why encourage it?

If the little girl didn’t clean her room when she was told, she should have been scolded and put in time out before the trip to the store. Instead the mom wimped out and chose an indirect (and ineffective) form of punishment that teaches a variety of bad lessons.

Minor disagreement Hamster, positive reinforcement is important, so there should be some rewards for normal household duties. But I agree with item 1, such rewards shouldn’t be food.

I think the “reward” for cleaning your room quickly is that you are done faster and get to go play. The “punishment” for not doing it, is that you don’t get to do anything fun until it’s done.

Of course, these aren’t really rewards and punishments, they are the natural positive and negative consequences associated with the particular task.

The reward isn’t for cleaning quickly. It’s for cleaning regularly, and not throwing everything in the closet or under the bed, and for being a good kid. If there’s no obvious benefit to being a good kid, guess what’s going to happen some day. A reward can be as simple as a compliment, it doesn’t have to be something extravagant.

“If you both clean your room then you can each have a candy bar. Your sister cleaned her room and you didn’t clean your room, so neither you or her get a candy bar.”

“That’s fair.”

Which makes the kid angrier and undercuts the parent’s moral authority. “Life isn’t fair” isn’t a defense of your decisions; it’s an admission that you are in the wrong but that it doesn’t matter because you are more powerful. Which is a foolish position to take, especially when you aren’t even in the wrong in the first place.

I don’t think that “life isn’t fair” ever did anything but convince me that I was in the right as a kid.

“If you both clean your rooms, one of you will get a candy bar and this will be determined randomly by lotto, except on odd months of the year where it will be determined by a 3-round kickboxing match, winner takes all.”
My kids will be prepared for life.

I’d be interested in **Claude Remains **take on this. He’d probably come up with an appropriate reward.

A few possibilities:

  1. The kid understands, but also understands that whining and making a scene will eventually get her what she wants most of the time.

  2. The kid really hasn’t learned about consequences yet, and hasn’t really connected the earlier statement to the present lack of a candy bar.

  3. The kid has severe short term memory problems, and doesn’t remember her mom saying anything about candy and cleaning earlier.

  4. The mom is a lying whore playing favorites with her kids, and is just making up a story tp justify jerking one of them around.

I think there is more truth to this than you might have meant, with the brown-nosing bit. When I was a kid, I would have meant (but not been able to articulate) that it was unfair that my sister, who liked cleaning her room and probably would have anyway, and was only all too eager to do it to show how much better than me she was, should be rewarded for that, while I should be punished even though I’m much smarter and it’s not my fault that I hate cleaning my room and she doesn’t and I didn’t know it was going to be a KING SIZE candy bar I thought it would just be one of those little “fun size” Snickers I don’t like that much anyway!

Which isn’t necessarily a better argument than “It’s not fair!” but it’s definitely a longer one!

The most obvious explanation to me is “Mom I want a candy bar and you’re not giving me one! I don’t care your reasons why not just giiiiiiiiiiiimmmmeeeeeeeee!!”

I understand the appeal of trying to understand a child’s view point, but have you considered that there are millions of adults who behave the same way? It seems like a hallmark trait of highly-negative passive-aggressive people to claim life is unfair and feel victimized.

I’m not talking about adults failing to comprehend that a complicated series of events ultimately lead to a bad result of their own making… Lot’s of adults feel they were wronged even when the logic is about as simple as “clean your room = candy”.

Personally I agree with, dangermom, whether it’s a 5 year old or a 45 year old who is behaving that way.

And I’d be interested if you had a reason for this that didn’t involve a gratuitous swipe at a poster not participating in this thread.

Even to adults fair can be a very subjective concept…

i.e. there are two organizations. In one organization employees are rewarded by seniority. Layoffs happen to those on the job most recently and people who have been around longer get paid more. This is very structured, objective, and therefore very “fair.” But those that work harder, but have not been around as long see this as “unfair.”

In the other organization, there is no value placed on seniority. People who are perceived by their bosses as working harder and more valuable are retained and rewarded. This is seen as very fair to those who manage to give the impression that they add value, but is seen as terribly unfair to the guy who has been around twenty years and thinks he works hard but no one notices. Its very subjective and the rules can change all the time.

This little girl needs to work in a union shop.

My experience is that when a child hollers, “that’s not fair,” that’s your absolute tip-off that the situation is completely fair. The child was told the consequences beforehand: no clean room, no candy bar. What is perceived as not fair, now in the candy-dispensing phase, is that she got one and I didn’t. Mom sticking to her guns reinforces actions/consequences.

I consider candy a highly appropriate reward. It’s not “food” it’s a treat. We don’t withhold food from children as a punishment, we withhold treats.