When your child says, “It’s not fair; you gave him more orange juice than me,” have you tried to even the score? Did you give him some more juice just to hear your other child say “Well now he has more than me!!”?
Oftentimes, children will make comparisons with their siblings and complain about unfairness:
“He got two cookies and I only got one!”
“She got a prettier doll than me.”
“You spoke to her for a looong time but you never have time for me.”
“Why do you buy him presents but you never give me anything?”
“You like her more than you like me.”
“He got a bigger pizza slice than me.”
Is it a parent’s job to make sure that everything is always even among children? The simple answer is “No”. A parent’s job is to fulfill the ‘needs’ of their children. It might not always appear so even and that’s ok.
So what can you do when your child complains about unfairness? Your response should focus on the needs of the child. And while you’re doing that, DO NOT mention anything about the other child who was complained about. You don’t want to fall into the trap of making comparisons too.
Here are some sample Red and Green responses (The parental comparisons are in bold.)
- “He got 2 cookies and I only got one!”
- “She got a prettier doll than me.”
- “You spoke to her for a loooong time but you never have time for me.”
- “Why do you buy him presents but you never give me anything?”
- “You like her more than you like me.”
- “He got a bigger pizza slice than me.”
Red Responses (to the above child remarks):
- “Well, yesterday you got 2 freeze pops and he only got one.”
- “That’s not true. (whispering) Yours is cuter.”
- “I do make time for you. Last Thursday I spoke to you for a long time and I didn’t speak to her.”
- “Oh yes I do buy you presents. I don’t only get him presents.”
- “No I don’t. I like you both the same.”
- “Here, let me cut off a piece of his to make it even.”
Green Responses (to the above child remarks):
- “You want another one? Sure, as soon as you eat this one up…”
- “Ohhhh. You wanted that doll? You like it a lot… What are you gonna’ do?”
- You want to talk to me? Sure, we can talk at 8:00. It’ll be quiet in the house then.
- Would you like a present? Hmmmm… Your birthday is coming up in 4 months.
- Do you feel unloved? It’s sad that you feel that way.
- Ohhh! You wanted more pizza? It’s a pity because the pie is finished. I wish I could give you another slice…
It might take a little while for your children to learn that mom or dad have begun to only pay attention to actual needs (as opposed to what they didn’t get compared to other family members.) But as long as you are consistent, they will begin to request what they need and avoid comparisons.