Explaining unfairness to children

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Explaining unfairness to children

Parents need to explain to children repeatedly that life isn't fair. It's an unavoidable lesson, it's an important lesson. It's also a lesson that kids are not going to learn easily. They use fairness as a very blunt instrument, things are either fair or unfair. Understanding that sometimes there are going to be inequities is a very nuance bit of reasoning that not all kids learn very quickly, but it does bear repeating again and again. Parents need to say life isn't fair and they also need to say, "And here's why it's not fair in this situation. Here's why it makes sense for your brother to stay up 'till 9:30 while you go to bed at 8:30. Here's why it makes sense for your sister to get a treat tonight while you don't get one." That doesn't mean that the kids are going to get it right away. Their treat, their bedtime is on the line so they're invested in rejecting the idea of conditional fairness. But over time and with enough experience and enough explanation from parents they tend to understand it and that's a very important developmental step.

Watch Jeffrey Kluger's video on Explaining unfairness to children...


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Jeffrey Kluger

Science Journalist & Author

Jeffrey Kluger is a senior editor and writer at Time magazine, covering science, health and other fields. He is the coauthor, along with astronaut Jim Lovell, of Apollo 13, the book that served as the basis of the 1995 movie. His more-recent release, Splendid Solution, told the story of Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine.  His novel, Nacky Patcher and the Curse of the Dry-Land Boats, was published in June 2007, and his newest nonfiction book, Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex, was published in June 2008.

Before coming to Time, Kluger worked for Discover magazine, where he was a senior editor and humor columnist. Prior to that, he was health editor at Family Circle magazine, story editor at The New York Times Business World Magazine, and Associate Editor at Science Digest magazine. His features and columns have appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Gentlemen's Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Omni, McCall's, New York Magazine, The New York Post, Newsday, and, of course, Time. He has worked as an adjunct instructor in the graduate journalism program at New York University; is a licensed—though non-practicing—attorney; and is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He lives in New York City with his wife Alejandra and their daughters, Elisa and Paloma.

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