Parenting with Fairness {or, Sometimes I overreact}

 Life isn’t fair. We all have a justice-meter built into us and we are gifted by God with an acute sense of when we have been slighted or when an injustice has been committed against us.

As a parent, being fair is important. It’s important that my children each know they are loved and cherished and worth fighting for. It’s valuable to teach my children about justice and the way God sees right and wrong

But as a parent, I get just plain tired of settling disputes and meting out appropriate discipline.

Somedays, I want to be that old lady in the shoe, if you know what I mean.

Spotting injustice in the world at large is fairly easy. It’s harder to see the injustice that we, ourselves, commit, but I know I’m guilty from time to time.

I get upset over inconveniences, for example. 

I know to choose my battles but sometimes, at the end of the day, I realize that I’ve died on a thousand hills over issues that were really just petty. Like spilt milk and bread crumbs and socks on the floor - just minor infractions. But when you line them up one after another and you add in all the reminders given, all the instructions repeated, and all the grace you can muster, there’s a domino effect that occurs.

First, I sigh pathetically loud and heavy. Because that’s really effective.

Then, I start naming names. I have a list of four and I start with the most likely culprit, according to the crime committed. Everyone is guilty until proven innocent in the Court of the Tired Mom and no one gets time off for good behavior. 

Next, if naming the assumed offender doesn’t produce confessions of guilt, I might choose to make new laws: You will all (fill in the blank); No one is allowed to (insert privilege) until (name appropriate consequence); Everyone needs to stop (blank) and start (blank).

That’s effective, too. 

The result is usually a cleaner house, exasperated children, and a longer list of laws to enforce.

bread crumbs

Sometimes I’m embattled over embarrassments because someone made it past my less-than-observant eye and into town with their hillbilly clothes on.

Or someone gets too rowdy for my liking.

Or someone says something that is a Deep Family Secret and the color of my face betrays my attempts to be calm.

These are the times I use subliminal messages to convey my deep disappointment to my children. I give The Look, which involves one eyebrow, a lowered chin, and a clenched jaw. 

Sometimes it works. And by “works”, I mean that it produces a change in behavior.

The problem is that many of my feeble attempts at correction are more like manipulation, and they don’t really affect a heart change. They also don’t induce maturity in my children, which is often what is lacking when they spill their milk or wear their rubber boots to the grocery store. 

Maturity takes time and discipline.

Embarrassment is never a just cause for discipline. Neither is inconvenience, but I’ve been guilty of handing out consequences for both.

Thankfully, being aware of injustice in my parenting means there is hope for me to make adjustments. 

I know that messes get cleaned up - I can relax about a few crumbs because it’s not like they’re going to be there forever. And spilt milk is really just an opportunity to teach my child to mop the floor, right?

I know I’m more prone to over-reacting when I’m tired - that’s not the time to tackle issues with my children, and if it’s been an issue for awhile, it’s not going to hurt anything to wait until I’m more rested and in a better frame of mind to deal with it.

I also know that being proactive goes a long way in keeping peace, sanity, and order in the home - I know I need to plan ahead for town trips and church by making sure my kids know what to wear and what time to be ready.

Life isn’t fair and I don’t want my children to be consumed with fighting for their own rights. I’d rather them see natural consequences in their own lives, and seek God for ways to solve injustice in the world around them.

I’m hoping that it starts with forgiveness for injustices within the family, and a love of mercy on all accounts.

"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:8 NKJV

Linking up with The WellspringImperfect Prose, and  #TellHisStory