Maybe you’ve heard of the Band-Aid lesson?
I hadn’t … that is, until yesterday.
Over fried rice, purple potato springs rolls, and the chopsticks antics of both my kids and my husband, a friend and I talked about kids and fairness.
“It’s taken me a while to learn this, but I’m discovering that as a parent it’s okay not to be ‘fair,’” I shared. “My kids don’t like it, though. It’s hard for them to accept.”
Although my friend wasn’t a mom yet, she was a teacher and she regularly faced the same issue with her students.
“I recently came across a teaching tool that helps kids with this,” she excitedly explained and quickly began to describe the Band-Aid lesson to me.
Here’s how it works:
- Line up your kids.
- Ask the first child, “Where does it hurt?” If they point to the back of their hand, place a Band-Aid there.
- Move to the second child and ask the same question. If they point to their forehead or arm, still place the Band-Aid on the back of their hand. After all, you want to be fair, right?
- Repeat this with all the kids, always placing the Band-Aid on the back of the hand, no matter where the ouchie may be.
The purpose is to illustrate in a visual, easy-to-understand way that we don’t all have the same needs. And, because of this, fairness — or “the state, condition, or quality of being fair, or free from bias or injustice; evenhandedness” — isn’t necessarily the answer.
The Band-Aid lesson is a helpful place to start. However, as Jesus-loving parents, how can we go beyond this and apply a biblical worldview to this idea that being “not fair” is a good thing? Here are three ideas.
1. Teach Kids That “The Best” Doesn’t Equal “The Same”
I have four daughters and sometimes it amazes me how distinct they are from one another. God has wired each of them with a unique personality and specific interests. The more I understand this, the more I realize a “one-size-fits-all” approach to parenting isn’t what’s best for them.
One way I help my kids understand that “the best” doesn’t equal “the same” involves catering to their individual, God-given interests and talents.
For example, I may say, “God has put in you a strong desire to better understand the universe He created. There’s a special event at the planetarium tonight. How about you and I go to that together?”
Although my other kids may want to come too, their passions might fall into other areas. And, while I want all of them to be well-rounded, I also want to encourage those interests specific to the person God created them to be.
2. Teach Kids “Grace” Instead of “Judgment”
I have a couple of kids who have a strong desire for justice. In other words, they want to make sure the punishment not only fits the crime but is the same punishment is given to all. When I deviate with one of their siblings from what they perceive to be “justice,” there are often cries of, “That’s not fair!”
Here’s the thing. Judgment says, “You did this [specific action]. Therefore, you deserve this [specific consequence].” Grace says, “You did this, but I understand that maybe you need kindness right now, even though I may have disciplined your sibling for the same action.”
Teaching kids to understand and accept this often happens over time. It’s usually best illustrated with the child who likes to say, “It’s not fair,” is the recipient of grace. That’s when it’s easier for them to understand, “Oh, grace is a good thing because I know what it feels like to receive when I don’t necessarily deserve.”
3. Teach Kids That Their Faith Is Built on “Not Fair”
Yes, God is just. What wasn’t just, though, was Jesus taking our punishment upon Himself. I often tell my kids, “If life were fair, Jesus wouldn’t have come.”
When our kids have a solid understanding of why Jesus came, what He did, and how it directly benefits them, it helps them better understand that “not fair” isn’t just a good thing, it’s a life-changing thing.
So, the next time your kids — like mine — proclaim, “It’s not fair!” you may want to start by pulling out some Band-Aids. And, after that, point them to why “not fair” is sometimes the very best thing for us.
Ashleigh Slater is the author of “Team Us: Marriage Together” and “Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard.” Find out more about Ashleigh at AshleighSlater.com or follow her on Facebook.