When one child says they’re not treated fairly

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You know when one of your offspring makes a statement that hurts? Well, Izzy, our four-year-old daughter, came out with a classic the other day suggesting she doesn’t get treated fairly.

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Walking through the park hand in hand, but are both kids treated fairly by Mrs Adams and I?

While playing with Mrs Adams, she remarked sadly: “Helen gets more stuff than me.”

This was duly reported back to me. It was possibly a throw-away remark, but it got Mrs Adams thinking. Maybe I’m just too sensitive, but I also got thinking. Those few words were the catalyst for a brief, but nonetheless deep, period of introspection.

Did Izzy have a point? What caused her to say this? Had we unwittingly been favouring one child over the other? Had we overlooked something? Was she not being treated fairly?

The remark was made at a sensitive time. You see I recently came to the conclusion the reverse was true.

Izzy is not yet at school. Although she attends pre-school a few days a week, she spends at least half a day with me Monday to Friday and all weekend with the entire family. She gets a lot more one-on-one time than her older sister.

Wednesdays, when Izzy and I have an entire day together, is often treat day. We frequently go to her choice of soft-play centre or undertake some other activity. I’ve been especially generous over recent months because I know that when she starts school in September such treats will be harder to arrange.

Helen, meanwhile, is at school Monday to Friday so gets very little one-on-one time with either Mrs Adams or I. I recently noticed a subtle change in Helen’s behavior and put this down to the lack of one-on-one time. Helen’s been asking if I would take her swimming on Saturdays and I’ve gone out of my way to oblige as I had concluded she was not being treated fairly.

I have no doubt there is an element of second child syndrome at play here. Helen benefited from a few brief years without a sibling, whereas Izzy never had that luxury.

Izzy also gets hand-me-downs in the form of toys, books and clothes from her sister. Even so, Izzy cannot claim things are that bad.

So why did Izzy make that remark? I had a little chat with her about it. Apparently, it’s all to do with toys. Izzy thinks Helen has more toys.

Mrs Adams and I gave some thought to this. Helen does indeed have a small number of more expensive toys. We’re talking things like roller skates and skate boards.

This, however, is a reflection of her age. Added to this, she’s that bit older and so we’re encouraging Helen to do chores to earn pocket money to buy these things.

I concluded Izzy is wrong. Yes, Helen may have a few more things than her younger sister and maybe even newer, more expensive items. This is simply a reflection of Helen’s age and while Helen may have more material items, Izzy gets more time on her own with mum and dad.

Tough as it may sound, Izzy will just have to get used to what she perceives as unfairness. As a parent, as a dad, those six, simple words muttered by Izzy caused quite a bit of anguish. We always try our best to treat the kids fairly and neither of them had said anything like that before. Then again, in the years to come I suspect Mrs Adams and I will have to deal with worse.

4 thoughts on “When one child says they’re not treated fairly”

  1. It’s a really hard thing to explain to kids. Our oldest has said similar things when her baby sister was born, but we tried to explain that sh had already had 3 years of our attention so the baby has to play catch up! I think it worked…? They’re best buddies now!

    1. Oh the arrival of a new born can be tricky can’t it? We’re well past that stage but I know people who had massive issues. Helen was fine, but she was a little clingy for a year or so afterwards. Although there’s clearly a little turbulence at the mo, both our girls get on very well.

  2. I loved reading this took me back with my older children their is 3 and half years between them and vividly remember whenever I brought them something it had to be equal amount of money to the penny or shit all hell would break loose even now they can still be like it haha. The interesting thing withtwins is they always equal amounts and quite often the same thing hence none of she has more than me. Excellent post mate

  3. Great post! The cynic in me says this is classic younger child tactics ( I was the youngest of 3). Not that our youngest son doesn’t believe it when he claims it but fairness is a very powerful card to play once having a tantrum no longer works. The problem is that the kids tend to frame the fairness around a specific thing they want rather than looking at their life circumstances as a whole. If you bring in a curve ball and say sure you can have X if you don’t have Y that you currently take for granted that can help disrupt their thinking. The reality is our eldest never complains that his brother is getting all of his hand-me-downs + a load of new stuff on top and is getting everything a year earlier than he did. I must have used these tactics myself and I did end up feeling hard done by as the youngest child, one of the joys of parenting is you can see that actually the reverse was true. I may have had less attention than my older siblings but you can’t complain about things that happen before you were born. As fairness is a baked into the brain ( I believe there was a sturdy that even babies will get upset if they see another child getting more food than them ) and it’s important to develop a healthy attitude towards it from a young age – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/200911/fair-play. Re new borns, when my youngest was born I suddenly became MY daddy as he realised Mummy was going to be giving her attention to the baby and has been monopolising my time ever since. That probably is unfair but interestingly the youngest never seems to raise that one! Emotional manipulation using fairness is inherently unfair on the parent!

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