The End of “It’s Not Fair”?

My seven year old daughter is overly dramatic and knows how to use words to paint an elaborate picture of betrayal, sadness, heartbreak.  Wait, my daughter is a dramatic story teller?  Shocking, right? The problem with her stories is that they are not always terribly accurate.  She doesn’t lie.  She just exaggerates to paint herself as the victim, the main villain in her tales, her little brother.  Listen, the boy can be a real terror.  I’ve written on this very blog about how he has challenged us as parents from time to time.  But he is also a love who showers his sister with affection and adoration when he’s not poking and picking at her.

As the very proud mom to both of my delightfully wacky kids, I’m struggling to help my daughter find a balance between righteous indignation and gratitude, especially when it comes to her pesty little brother. Yesterday I had simply had enough as she yelled at no one in particular, tears streaming down her face.  The source of anger wavered depending on my queries, but in the midst of it all I sensed a tone.

The theme of her angry fit?  “It’s not fair!”

That night as we sat in her room reading books and singing bedtime songs, I pulled out this simple page that I created quickly, armed and ready to fight my child’s increasingly spoiled bad attitude:

Each night during prayers we each thank God for one thing and ask for his help with one thing, but I felt like it was time to step up our game.  I struggled with the “lucky” part, but went with it anyway.  The result?  She went through each of the lovely details of her day – winning Bible Story Jeopardy at church, lunch at Panera with mom, a hip hop dance party, a friend over to play – and she realized how wonderful her day had actually been.  In the end she decided she’s a lucky girl because she has such great friends.  Once we had the page filled out, I hung it next to her bed.  Rather than lying in bed feeling sorry for herself because her brother got to eat her one and only cherry Tootsie Roll, she instead fell asleep with her blessings staring her in the face.  And the first thing she saw when she woke up the next morning?  All the reasons she should be grateful.

I’m not so naive to think that this means “I’m not fair” is going away any time soon.  She’s seven. I realize this is just the beginning and her list of indignities will simply grow more complicated once I have to put my foot down about dates and parties and driving with friends, but now I’m armed and ready.

How do you combat the “It’s not fairs” in your house?

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  • What a great idea!! I do this for myself and *smacking forehead* never thought to use with my children!! Thank you for showing me that! I barely started hearing “it’s not fair” *stomp stomp stomp* it ends one day right? Lol.

    • Amy

      I need to do it for ME! *smacking forehead too* 🙂 Great idea!

  • Love this idea!!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Although they don’t shout the exact words, “it’s not fair”, both my teenage girls make it clear that they still feel that way from time to time. I don’t either have expectations of it going away completely, but do wish they were more appreciative. With friends of “higher status” than us, it is even mote difficult to show them that there are way more people less fortunate. On top of that, there’s something about teens today that believe they “deserve” things without having to earn them. It has become very stressful and painful. Of course I want to give them everything, but most of all appreciation.

    • Amy

      I love what you say here: “Of course I want to give them everything, but most of all appreciation.” YES! Isn’t this a parent’s eternal struggle?

  • Janet

    Great writeup. I think you’re handling things beautifully. Kudos!

    I combat the “it’s not fair” complaints by doing pretty much the same thing that my parents used to do — I point out a few “it’s not fair” complaints from the other sibling. When my daughter hears what her brother has had to tolerate so that she can do all the wonderful things that she does (dance lessons, Tae Kwon Do lessons, sports activities, after-school activities, etc.), she quickly realizes that her sibling isn’t such a bad guy after all.

    I also make sure that my two kids do things together. For example, my daughter was whining that I wouldn’t allow her to attend an all-day rock concert with her best friend this past weekend because the girls were too young (they’re barely teenagers). My solution was to send her big brother to the concert with them as their chaperone. Since my daughter knew this was the only way I was going to allow her to attend the concert, she kept her “it’s not fair” complaints to a minimum. I’m happy to report that when I picked the kids up after the concert, it was a joy to hear my daughter, her best friend, and my son all talking in unison about the bands that they liked and didn’t like. My plan at a little sibling togetherness had worked out beautifully. It’s just a little trick that I had learned from my parents, who are the smartest parents I know. 😉

  • I so love this tip that I am inspired to share one of my own…

    In my house, the “it’s not fair” statement in response to not getting their own way usually has a selfish “me-me-me” mindset attached.

    One of the best ways I’ve found to respond in this situation is the “Step Into My Shoes” strategy which I learned during the process of researching my eBook the Ace Child Discipline Guide.

    Basically, you have your child literally stand in someone else’s shoes (yours, a siblings, etc.) and have them act out the situation from the other person’s perspective. I ask them questions such as: How do I feel? What would I say? What do I want to happen? Why?

    It really helps them see the situation from the other person’s point of view, be more considerate of the needs and feelings of others, and shows them that they can’t always have their own way because then it would be UNFAIR for others.

    Try it with your children – it works a treat! 🙂

  • april yedinak

    This is a great idea. I don’t have a lot of the ‘it’s not fair’ stuff to deal with, but I think that is because I have always been very open about the unfairness of life with my kids. I know, not very warm and fuzzy, but there it is. However, they are really mercenary in their desire to see a sibling punished for perceived transgressions. Maybe I could steal your idea and alter it a bit to focus on the good things about their siblings.

  • Great idea, it’s so easy to get caught up in the negative and good that you’re being proactive and teaching your daughter to be positive!