Why is it Fair…?
“Why is it fair that I have so much when other kids don’t?” kindergartener, Rachel Harris, pointedly asked.
With her mother’s support and guidance, Rachel founded Let’s Help Kids, a nonprofit company which works alongside teachers and case workers to provide toys and experiences for the children of families who would otherwise not be able to afford life’s little luxuries. Over six years later, Rachel has helped over 2,000 children by providing presents for birthdays and holidays, Halloween costumes, summer camp tuition, swim lessons, and even movie tickets.
It all began with a question of fairness “Why is it fair…?”
Fairness, at its roots, involves a sense of right and wrong, of equity, and of sharing.
Teaching young children this character trait involves bringing abstract concepts into daily tangible experiences.
First and foremost, parents must model fair behaviors for their children by demonstrating kindness and respect to neighbors and strangers alike.
Additionally, parents can play games with their children to teach these concepts.
Professional counselor and author, Christina Steinorth, suggests playing games like “Peek-a-boo” as a way to teach your infant or toddler turn-taking skills.
“Peek-a-boo teaches your child to share through an interactive game—you make an action, your child responds and you respond back with positive reinforcement,” says Steinorth. “It’s a very early concept of give-and-take between two people.” These kinds of introductions enable children to learn about fairness from an early age.
As children grow and mature they begin to understand the concept of fairness on a much deeper level. Encourage this understanding by playing games together, talk about the importance of following the rules of fair play. As you watch a movie or read a book together, discuss the fair and unfair situations you observe.
Elizabeth Tricomi, PhD, assistant professor and researcher at Rutgers University, suggests these additional tips to help children develop an understanding of fairness:
Express feelings of disgust. Research demonstrates a correlation between childhood aversions and adult advocates. If a child is willing to express disgust (like avoiding “icky foods”) then, as an adult, he is more likely to speak out against injustice in the world.
Engage them. Ask questions like, “Was that fair? Why or Why not?” to help children evaluate their own understanding of fairness.
Explain and practice. As your children grow, point out more complex examples of fairness combined with an understanding of injustice. Be willing to step in and intervene when necessary and let your child see you do it.
The children who ask questions like “Why is it fair…?” as Rachel did often go on to do amazing things to make the world a better place. By taking time to focus on fairness in the early years, your child will grow to understand that he, too, can make a difference.