Life is Not Fair

by Dewayne Noel
January 2008


There are seven children in my house. The first two are boys, followed by four girls, with another boy then bringing up the rear. The oldest will soon be sixteen, while the youngest just turned six. If there is anything I have learned over the years about raising children, it’s that your greatest tool will often be an unorthodox turn of mind and an ability to see the big picture.

I’ll give you an example. The other day I was sitting at my desk in the living room getting some work done when I heard three of my four girls upstairs having a vigorous discussion laced with copious amounts of contention. Now, your standard, run-of-the-mill parent concerned with truth, justice and the American way might have marched upstairs (or called the girls downstairs) and began a session of Biblical truth, child psychology or juvenile ranting and raving of their own. There would likely have been an attempt to figure out who caused the contention, what was the contention about, had someone been done wrong and who needed to be properly recompensed for any loss received.

I didn’t do that. I stood up, walked to the foot of the stairs and called casually up into the dark recesses and unfathomable depths of the grade-school feminine mind. “Do you need me to come up and settle it for you?” I asked gently.

Instant silence. They knew that, if Daddy had to stop what he was doing in order to settle a petty quarrel, the results would be untraditional, non-negotiable and everybody would most probably loose.

“No, Sir” came the hopeful chorus floating back down the stairs. He asked before he came up. Maybe he won’t come up.

“Then you all work it out so that I don’t have to.” I answered, and went back to my desk and went back to work.

There is a purpose in the approach, and it is an approach I find myself using quite often these days. I am very well aware of the possibilities that a quarrel among the children was caused by one particular child instigating the whole shebang. Either a child is being selfish and not sharing, being mean-spirited, or she is flogging the other children with her insufferable whining. Nothing stirs up things like a whiner.

Whatever the cause of the problem, there is sure to be an adversary and a victim. It’s human nature. And, while it is true that undesirable character flaws in a child need to be recognized and dealt with, we often miss a great opportunity to instill a series of positive character traits in all of the children that are equally important.

Children need to learn to settle their own differences without the interference of an adult sometimes. Social skills are not really learned by lecture, but by trial and error over years of living application. Culture is a complicated, multi-layered phenomenon, and any society is made up of many layers of culture. Too many adults today can’t settle personal disputes with other adults in a calm, mature, logical manner because they were never forced to do it as a child. Some well-meaning parent, pastor or other person was always rushing in to bestow justice, dispense wisdom and bind the wounded, and the child was never able to learn to sort things out for themselves.

The most important part of this truth is that for the quarrel to be settled among themselves (the girls) before the higher authority (me) has to intervene, someone has to suffer loss. Yep. The one being wronged in the first place will likely just have to accept that wrong in silence, forgive it even though unasked and carry on playing with the offending sibling with a gracious attitude in order to maintain peace in the house. It’s a tough lesson to learn and an even tougher one to teach.

The bully will always be dealt with at a later date for a separate infraction. She won’t get away with bad character for very long. However, you’ll use her bad character in this particular instance to teach a dose of grown-up reality to everybody involved. Just train for one thing at a time, or the concentrated impact of the point being made will be diluted and ineffective. They are children.

If church members and Christian brethren everywhere could get a hold of the Biblical truth involved here, perhaps we would not have such a bad name among those in the world, and an even worse reputation among ourselves. The Bible says in I Corinthians 6:7: “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”

The simple reason that many adults can’t set aside their pride, their self-righteous indignation at wrongs suffered and their much-trumpeted rights and endure the wrong quietly and graciously for the sake of peace in the body of Christ is that they never learned to do it as children.

So, the next time your children are involved in a self-induced altercation that doesn’t involve blunt instruments or bad words, think twice before you fix it for them. Step in and suggest they fix it, then leave. If they don’t fix it, (and they usually won’t the first time), you fix it in such a way that there are no winners. Everyone looses for not finding a solution on their own.

The next time, give them another chance to develop social skills and the art of compromise. If they can’t sort it out in a fairly timely manner, step in and dispense judgment again right across the board in such a way that everybody looses. Before long they will start to learn to come up with answers among the parties involved, and to find an equitable solution before any outsiders can step in and make life difficult. Then, you have children that aren’t just on the road to being good kids, but are learning to be skillful, valuable adults.

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