That’s Not Fair!



“That’s not fair!” Kids of all ages allege that we parents are unfair. Major infractions include:

  • Forcing them to shower
  • Only letting them get one topping on their frozen yogurt
  • Lending their favorite t-shirt to their brother/sister/dog
  • Making them come home earlier than everyone else
My grade seven teacher used to say “Fair is a carnival, not life.”

But I find that depressing. I think life should be a carnival, and not only because of the deep fried Mars bars.

Children of any age have a right to a fair existence, wherever possible. 

Here are some tips for being fair in your home:
  1. Be consistent. When my kids were small, I had a rule that every time we went to the dollar store, they could each choose two things. Same for everybody, same every time. They knew what to expect, and it avoided conflict. If they threw themselves on the floor wailing gently petitioned for a third item, I would just say “The rule is two things per person.” And then walk away. (I’m sure my boys would be delighted to tell you about the time I left them clutching a DVD in the aisle of Best Buy and went all the way back to my car.)
  2. Be a loser. I’ve learned with teenagers, sometimes they just want to win an argument. If you tell them to be home at 12, and they say that’s unfair, ask them what they have in mind. They may just want 12:15 so they can feel like they conned you. You give in to the extra 15 minutes, curfew is followed, and another conflict avoided.
  3. Acknowledge your privilege. Sometimes you may decide to do something that’s unfair. For example, encourage your child to change his socks before the family dies of basketball asphyxiation going out for dinner. And maybe your child believes this is unjust. You can say, yes, this is unfair, but that’s the situation we’re in. Here are some handy phrases you can use with your children:
    1. This is out of my comfort level
    2. I can’t be flexible on this one
    3. Go ahead and change, we’ll be waiting for you in the car

The pursuit of justice is not for the weak of heart. Sometimes it will be difficult to be fair with your family. But I don’t want you to give up. Please look deep within yourself to see if your kids have a point. Are you jumping to conclusions? Are you doing what your parents did? Are you just so goddam exhausted?

I urge you to continue to promote fairness within your family. And if that doesn’t work, I’m sure there’s a carnival happening in your neighbourhood this summer. Have a roasted sweet corn for me.


About Author

Amy Fish is a Canadian who writes about complaining. She is the author of the non-fiction book The Art of Complaining Effectively. Amy has been interviewed on national and local television and radio as a complaints expert, and as a writer. Her work has been published in  Reader’s Digest and the Globe and Mail (Canada’s national newspaper) and she has won writing prizes from both Writer’s Digest and the Quebec Writer’s Federation. Amy loves to spread the gospel of complaining effectively and has appeared as a keynote speaker at conferences, professional meetings and garage door openings. Visit Amy online at

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