3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be a Fair Parent

I can still remember riding the bus home with my report card in eighth grade, staring down in disappointment and anxiously awaiting my parents’ reaction. School had always come somewhat naturally, but, for the first time, I had received a C. I knew the expectations for my grades and knew I would be grounded for falling short. I went home and accepted my fate and only received one more C the rest of my school years.

Fast forward a few more years and I found out my two younger sisters were getting paid if they got an A or a B. Talk about unfair. And what about all the money I could have earned?! My parents knew I had a different learning capacity and was more gifted academically, so they set a standard accordingly. It was a hard lesson to understand, but now I’m so glad my parents didn’t have the same expectations for each of their kids. They decided not to be fair, which can sound bad, but it set me (and them) up for long-term success. Here are 3 reasons you shouldn’t be a fair parent.

1. It sharpens your kids’ strengths.

Helping our kids find their strengths can be one of the most rewarding parts of being a parent. However, helping to sharpen those strengths is a little more work. Continuing to set the bar higher so your excelling child can be challenged is a healthy way to keep building on that strength. At some point, this could go against what their friend groups are doing. While your son may not think you’re a fair parent by challenging him to take the honors class that his best friend won’t be in, it will set him up for future success.

The ideal isn’t to be fair; the ideal is to challenge each kid on his or her own level.

2. It creates awareness of weaknesses.

I want my kids to be great at everything, but I realize that’s an unrealistic expectation. There are going to be areas where they’re not naturally gifted and even limited by their skill set or personality. I remember hearing a friend of a friend, Jerry, setting a separate challenge for each of his twin boys going into middle school. He challenged one to make the traveling soccer team and the other to play on a recreational soccer team with his friends. I asked Jerry why he had a much higher expectation of one son than the other. After all, they’re twins! He shared the difference in their skillsets. Instead of giving them the same goal, which would have felt fair, he adjusted to something that would challenge both. The ideal isn’t to be fair; the ideal is to challenge each kid on his or her own level.

3. It sets you up for success as a parent.

I can barely cut a chocolate bar in half “fairly” without a kid saying, “I got the smaller piece!” How can we expect raising kids fairly to be attainable? So many different factors go into raising kids, and we must make decisions that are best for each kid. If we focus on making the best decision for each child, we’ll set our kids up for their best future. And along the way, we set ourselves up for success as a parent—not by being a fair parent, but by giving each kid what he or she needs.

Sound off: How has not being a fair parent given your kid a chance to succeed?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Has there been a time when something didn’t feel fair to you? What did you do?”