If you haven’t heard, “It’s not fair!”, then you are lucky. Because it’s not fair.
Fairness is a tricky word and if you have ever been a teacher in a classroom with 25 or more children, you know the difference between equity and equality. This is an important distinction with multiple children in your household as well.
Equality is everyone receiving the same thing or the same treatment. Equality is giving everyone two pieces of pizza.
Equity is meeting everyone’s needs. Equity is giving the child who eats more three pieces of pizza and the child who eats less one piece of pizza.
We all know that kids have different needs. If you have siblings, think about how different your needs and wants are from your sister or brother. Or how different your one child is from the other.
In many cases, one child will have more social needs and be more shy, possibly more likely to lash out, maybe less able to regulate emotions and one child will be more sociable with others, often kinder and more apt to smile. To be equitable in this kind of family, you will have to give more energy to the child with higher social needs.
What does that look like? If you are reading a bedtime story, then the child with higher needs always gets to sit in the middle of the lap and the other child gets to sit next to the lap. Before bedtime, lay in the bed with the child who has higher needs for 7 minutes and in the bed with the child who has fewer needs for 5 minutes. Now, in my family, we have been doing this since the dawn of time so they don’t know any different.
But if you have practiced equality instead of equity, you may hear some dissent. So without going into too many details, you can just explain to them that you are making sure that everyone’s needs are met.
You are also teaching your children that everyone’s needs will be met and in a day or a month or a year, the other child may have higher emotional needs and they know that their needs will be met when that day comes.
I just finished reading Wonder by RJ Palacio and I won’t give much of the book away since you should definitely read it, but it is about a child with a lot of medical difficulties. His sister has her say of the situation near the middle of the book and it really resonated with me.
She talked about how her parents never really gave her much attention. They were always there for her brother. But she didn’t become a horrible attention-starved person, but exactly the opposite. She witnessed people caring for each other her whole entire life and she became the most caring person. This is equity vs. equality in action. I have know a couple of people in my life who have also had siblings with higher needs and they followed this same pattern.
Fill your kids buckets to the top, some need more to fill and some need less, but all needs will be met.