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By Keren Perles
You could use a tape measure to cut each piece of cake, and still you’d hear those three words: “It’s not fair!” “You can’t possibly make things fair,” says Laura Markham, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. “Kids will always argue that someone else got a bigger piece. They actually see it that way—that you’re always favoring their sibling.”
The Bottom Line
What should you do if your child complains that you’re being unfair? Markham suggests the two-step process of Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of Siblings Without Rivalry: Empathize with his disappointment, even if you disagree with his reasoning. Then, address his actual need, especially by showing love.
Learn how you can respond to some common “It’s not fair” scenarios.
“Her piece is bigger!”
“He’s always messing up my things!”
“You always spend more time with her!”
“How come he gets to fly to visit Grandpa and I don't?”
“You love her more than me!”
Your goal in responding to this statement should be to show your child how much you love him—not to show him that you love him more than his sibling. If you imply that he’s secretly your favorite, he’ll feel guilty—and wonder what you’re telling his sister. Instead, say, “I could never love anyone more than you! There is no one else like you in the whole world. I’m so lucky that I get to be your mom.”
No, you’ll never prove to your kids that you love them equally. Just let them know that you’ve heard them and that you couldn’t love anyone more than you love them. That’s what every child needs to know.
Are you guilty of playing favorites? Click here to learn the myths and facts about favoritism in the family.