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#1 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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..."sometimes life just isn't fair"??  Do you say this to your children, did your parents (or someone else) say it to you?  I am finding, quite recently, that I have strong opinions on this, and I'm kind of angry about something that happened with DD at school, and this phrase plays a big part.  I was just wondering what others thought before I jump into my rant.

 

Mods:  I put this here because it's not specific to a certain age child, or even school in general.  Just a question about societal attitudes.


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#2 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:14 PM
 
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My mom used to say it, and I say it sometimes. I don't want my kids to think that life is fair, because I think that sets them up for a gigantic kick in the teeth. OTOH, I don't like it when people use it as a justification for being mean, and I've seen that quite a bit.

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#3 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:21 PM
 
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I don't ever say it.
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#4 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:26 PM
 
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I agree with Storm Bride. I often tell my kids that sometimes life is hard or unfair, because it's the truth. But we don't use it as an excuse to treat others unkindly.

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#5 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:29 PM
 
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I don't care for the word "fair" in general. I don't use it. Unless we're going to the fair smile.gif

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#6 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:35 PM
 
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I use a variation of that phrase. "Life is hard" or 'we don't always get what we want'. I don't like the term 'fair' since it often gives a sort of hopeless feel to a situation. If I've been wronged, telling me 'life isn't fair' seems to absolve the wrongdoer of fixing the situation and reads to me as 'suck it up, nothing you can do about it'. Changing it to 'hard' makes it something that acknowledges that something is wrong and difficult, but that it's still worth it to fight back/fix it.

 

And I believe in the colloquial understanding of karma. What comes around goes around. So, in my personal belief, I feel like life is, in the end, fair. Just because it seems like some people are 'getting away' with doing bad things, doesn't mean they are. Who knows what's happening inside them/family/friends/etc.

 

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#7 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:40 PM
 
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Life isn't "fair" and that is a fact. However, it bugs me highly when people use it in a way to excuse them from sympathy, empathy, whatever. I see this said a lot online.  It appears to be a catch-all for people who fail to offer solutions.  It is one thing that life isn't "fair", it is another thing that people use the phrase to excuse themselves of basic kindness and empathy.  Maybe it is cynical of me to say this but I really do think that people take a certain satisfaction in others' failures and hardships.  It puffs one up when one isn't on the receiving end of said the unfairness.  I also think that when people "suffer" they take a certain satisfaction in the concept that others suffer too.  It is messed up but there's a lot of bitterness out there.


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#8 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:46 PM
 
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Originally Posted by CatsCradle View Post

Maybe it is cynical of me to say this but I really do think that people take a certain satisfaction in others' failures and hardships.  It puffs one up when one isn't on the receiving end of said the unfairness.  I also think that when people "suffer" they take a certain satisfaction in the concept that others suffer too.  It is messed up but there's a lot of bitterness out there.


It's called Shadenfreude. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schadenfreude

Which makes you very observant, not cynical.

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#9 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 06:51 PM
 
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I've never said it to my kid, but it's basically true. Life isn't always fair.

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#10 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 07:23 PM
 
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We do say it, or a variation. Not about serious issues, but about the little "that's not faaaaiiiir" whining that kids do over nothing. The family saying is "a fair is a place you take pigs to win ribbons."

Life isn't fair. I agree it's not an excuse for bad behavior or unkindness, but it is true.
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#11 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 07:45 PM
 
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i say it sometimes. and my dad used to say it, though he denies that.
it isn't fair. i agree with stormbride about it.
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#12 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 08:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, here's my thing...I think that the use of the phrase "life isn't fair" is kind of dismissive and teaches children to be complacent and take what is dealt.  It also seems to be used most in a situation where one person is actively and presently being treated unfairly.  With DD, she was accused by the lunch lady of doing something that she didn't do (please don't challenge me on this, I know she didn't do it, even her classroom teacher knows she didn't do it).  DD insisted that she didn't do it, and pleaded her case to the lunch lady, who took it as "talking back."  Basically, the teacher (who I otherwise adore) deemed that "sometimes life isn't fair" and punished DD, not for doing what the lunch lady said she did (which even the teacher knows she didn't do, remember), but because she argued and "talked back" instead of accepting the accusation, even though it wasn't a fair one.

 

Now, I totally realize that there comes a time in a person's life when wailing "that's unfair" no longer works, and we're expected to articulate ourselves better, but I'm not sure that squelching a child's natural obsession with fairness is a good thing to do.  I mean, don't people "overly" concerned with fairness become labor organizers, human rights activists, and community organizers?  Isn't there a place in society for them too?  Does the "life isn't fair" mentality contribute, even a little bit, to people not even going to the ballot boxes to vote on issues that don't directly concern them?  (Gay people can't get married?  Life isn't fair!  Poor people can't get free birth control?  Well, life isn't fair!)  I don't know if DD is overly concerned with fairness, but she certainly is deeply emotionally invested in it.  And it generally isn't actually about her, and whether she is being treated fairly, but about the bigger picture.  They are having a book swap at school, where kids bring in a used book and get to take home a new-to-them book in return.  DD thinks it's unfair because not all children have books, or extra books, and that they should get to take home books too.  So, she has resolved to bring in extras (I tried explaining to her that the school has already taken care of this, and that everyone will get to take home a book, but she doesn't believe me LOL).  She also thinks it's unfair that polar bears are going to go extinct because we drive her to school (well, we walk now LOL, in all sorts of weather cold.gif).  But when something unfair happens to her, she takes it very personally, not in a temper-tantrum-until-I-get-what-I-want way, but weeping inconsolably for hours, and her feelings remain wounded for days, or more.  Literally.  Yes, I try to teach her about picking her battles, but I just can't bring myself to tell her that life simply isn't fair, or to suffer anyone else saying it to her either.  I am actually more upset about this than I expected, and we haven't even touched on the subject of "talking back" to an adult who is unfairly accusing you of something LOL!  I just honestly cannot think of a situation where I would be so dismissive of another adult to say to them "sometimes life isn't fair!"  I would never say something like, "sorry, DH, I spent $100 on xyz, now you have no spending money!  Life's not fair, so suck it up!"

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#13 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 08:45 PM
 
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I hate it, and I never say it. Sure life it's always fair, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to at least make it more fair than it is. Most of the people I have heard this from are just people who don't have any desire to treat the person they are talking about like they are equal to them.


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#14 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 09:34 PM
 
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Yep, life is not fair.

 

But when someone is feeling awful about a situation is hardly the time to point it out. It sure as heck as never made me feel better about a situation.


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#15 of 53 Old 02-28-2011, 11:20 PM
 
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I think that there are situations where life really isn't fair. And I would agree with others that the "life isn't fair" phrase is thrown out far too often in situations where things are unbalanced, or one party isn't being nice.

Maybe what would help your DD is to point out that fairness is more situational, and less "life." One situation is not all of life! And in those situations it's a chance to learn and plan for the future. Yes, a situation might not have been fair, but how can that be changed in the future? Can it be changed? If it can't be changed, is it worth holding onto the sadness or anger? Could the unfair situation have been avoided, and how? Etc.

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#16 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 05:43 AM
 
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I've never said it... but then again, dd has never said, "But that's not fair!" 

 

Like ramamama, I would challenge the kind of lack of "fairness" that happened to her dd.  That challenge may not result in anything, but I think that children need to learn to not accept things as it just not being fair.  Everyone has a right to be their own advocate.  Sometimes the fight is enough, even if it doesn't result in victory.

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#17 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 06:06 AM
 
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I don't believe in "fair" for the most part.  Things can't always be fair and equal, that's just life.  I think that in our house there is a balance, everyone gets what they need and sometimes they get what they want.  It certainly isn't fair, because we all have different wants and needs.

 

OP I think it's complete bs that your dd got in trouble for sticking up for herself.  That's different than unfair, it's just wrong.  If she didn't do it, she didn't and she has a right to speak up about it and defend herself.

 

But then there is also the issue of picking your battles, which is something we've really had to work with ds on.  He is a very black and white person.  Things are as they should be, or they are not.  I remember a specific lunch incident where he was at a table where some stuff got dropped on the floor and the lunch ladies were on them to clean it up.  He insisted it wasn't his mess so he shouldn't have to clean it up.  He came home pretty pissed off about the whole thing.  We had to explain that at that point it's just smarter/easier/better to just clean the junk up and move on.  It doesn't matter if it wasn't your mess.  So sure, it's not "fair" that you have to clean up someone else's mess, but it's not worth the battle.

 

My 5 year old has decided that the whole world is against her and that we are NEVER fair.  It's exhausting so fair is a pretty touchy subject for me right now.  

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#18 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 06:44 AM
 
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..."sometimes life just isn't fair"??  Do you say this to your children, did your parents (or someone else) say it to you?  I am finding, quite recently, that I have strong opinions on this, and I'm kind of angry about something that happened with DD at school, and this phrase plays a big part.  I was just wondering what others thought before I jump into my rant.



 



Mods:  I put this here because it's not specific to a certain age child, or even school in general.  Just a question about societal attitudes.




 



I have said it to dd.



Usually it is after much talking reasonably and trying to be considerate of her feelings about something but after hours or days or weeks of her fixating about something that truly can't be changed I say something along the lines of life isn't always fair. Sometimes we just need to get over things and move on.



 



OP- I would be very angry that my child was punished for such a situation and told life isn't fair. I think that while it is true that not everything in the world is going to be fair this is a case of the teacher deciding it was more important to avoid conflict with the lunch lady than do what was right. The teacher could have stood up for your dd and been fair to both parties but chose not to be.



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#19 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 07:59 AM
 
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My mom used to say it, and I say it sometimes. I don't want my kids to think that life is fair, because I think that sets them up for a gigantic kick in the teeth. OTOH, I don't like it when people use it as a justification for being mean, and I've seen that quite a bit.

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Okay, here's my thing...I think that the use of the phrase "life isn't fair" is kind of dismissive and teaches children to be complacent and take what is dealt.  It also seems to be used most in a situation where one person is actively and presently being treated unfairly.  With DD, she was accused by the lunch lady of doing something that she didn't do (please don't challenge me on this, I know she didn't do it, even her classroom teacher knows she didn't do it).  DD insisted that she didn't do it, and pleaded her case to the lunch lady, who took it as "talking back."  Basically, the teacher (who I otherwise adore) deemed that "sometimes life isn't fair" and punished DD, not for doing what the lunch lady said she did (which even the teacher knows she didn't do, remember), but because she argued and "talked back" instead of accepting the accusation, even though it wasn't a fair one.

 

Now, I totally realize that there comes a time in a person's life when wailing "that's unfair" no longer works, and we're expected to articulate ourselves better, but I'm not sure that squelching a child's natural obsession with fairness is a good thing to do.  I mean, don't people "overly" concerned with fairness become labor organizers, human rights activists, and community organizers?  Isn't there a place in society for them too?  Does the "life isn't fair" mentality contribute, even a little bit, to people not even going to the ballot boxes to vote on issues that don't directly concern them?  (Gay people can't get married?  Life isn't fair!  Poor people can't get free birth control?  Well, life isn't fair!)  I don't know if DD is overly concerned with fairness, but she certainly is deeply emotionally invested in it.  And it generally isn't actually about her, and whether she is being treated fairly, but about the bigger picture.  They are having a book swap at school, where kids bring in a used book and get to take home a new-to-them book in return.  DD thinks it's unfair because not all children have books, or extra books, and that they should get to take home books too.  So, she has resolved to bring in extras (I tried explaining to her that the school has already taken care of this, and that everyone will get to take home a book, but she doesn't believe me LOL).  She also thinks it's unfair that polar bears are going to go extinct because we drive her to school (well, we walk now LOL, in all sorts of weather cold.gif).  But when something unfair happens to her, she takes it very personally, not in a temper-tantrum-until-I-get-what-I-want way, but weeping inconsolably for hours, and her feelings remain wounded for days, or more.  Literally.  Yes, I try to teach her about picking her battles, but I just can't bring myself to tell her that life simply isn't fair, or to suffer anyone else saying it to her either.  I am actually more upset about this than I expected, and we haven't even touched on the subject of "talking back" to an adult who is unfairly accusing you of something LOL!  I just honestly cannot think of a situation where I would be so dismissive of another adult to say to them "sometimes life isn't fair!"  I would never say something like, "sorry, DH, I spent $100 on xyz, now you have no spending money!  Life's not fair, so suck it up!"


I think these two statements go hand in hand. There are times that life simply isn't fair, and that really sucks. When it's something that's brought about my meaness of spirit, then you work to change it. It sounds like this was a moment in time when your dd hit a brick wall regarding, not necesarily meaness of spirti, but something similar to it.

But I have had to used the phrase a time or two with my oldest, For example, he was obsessed with a toy a friend had and he wanted me to buy it for him. But it wasn't a toy I wanted him to have. After a week of him complaining and carrying on, and me trying to explain my decsion to him, I finally turned about and said, "you're right. Sometimes life isn't fair." This actually seemed to make him feel better than all my reasoning with him, becaue I think he felt like I was acknowledging his feelings. I was shocked that he actually stopped complaingin about it then.joy.gif

 
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#20 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 08:28 AM
 
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Life isn't fair, but I would prefer it to be equal. Usually when kids talk about something being unfair, like within siblings, they are really talking about equality and I strive to make things equal when at all possible.


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#21 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 08:38 AM
 
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Life isn't fair, but I would prefer it to be equal. Usually when kids talk about something being unfair, like within siblings, they are really talking about equality and I strive to make things equal when at all possible.


I actually find this the exact opposite with my kids. For example, if I have alone time after say a doctors appointment, and on the way home, I get lunch with ds1, the other boys will claim unfair. This is even if they had some sort of treat, like picking out a toy, the week before. Equal, but not the same. So, they declare it's unfair.

 
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#22 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 08:45 AM
 
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Okay, here's my thing...I think that the use of the phrase "life isn't fair" is kind of dismissive and teaches children to be complacent and take what is dealt. 


yes!  i think that is usually the way the phrase is used, at least in my experience.  a statement may be true, but may not be remotely kind or helpful.

 

one of my boys was fussing this morning that his brother had more milk in his cereal bowl than he had, and of course he said, "it's not fair!"  there was no way in heck i was going to add milk to his cereal bowl to try to make it exactly the same.  i could have said, "life isn't fair," and left him still feeling like he somehow got shafted, but it was just as easy to say, "do you have enough milk for the cereal in your bowl?" and he said, "yes."  pretty simple.  it doesn't have to be fair - everybody doesn't have to get the same - as long as we all get what we need.
 

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#23 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 08:50 AM
 
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yes!  i think that is usually the way the phrase is used, at least in my experience.  a statement may be true, but may not be remotely kind or helpful.

 


I agree. I've never heard, "Well, life isn't fair" said in a way that wasn't dismissive and in exactly the same tone of voice one would use to say, "Oh get over it and shut up." I guess it could be said kindly, but I've never heard it used that way. 


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#24 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 10:20 AM
 
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I say it quite a lot just now. My nearly 5 year old talks about fairness a lot.

It isn't the kindest thing to say. Sometimes in this house being kind and being honest are mutually exclusive, and sometime sbeing honest is more important than being kind.

Some things just aren't fair and there's no way to make them fair. I am not going to breastfeed my 5yo (who was weaned from the breast at 7mo) to make it "fair" with the baby. I am not going to give my baby candy to make it "fair" with her big sister. When there is only enough milk left for one cereal and one coffee then DP gets the coffee and DD1 gets the cereal, which isn't remotely fair to me but i don't have to get to a WOH job like DP and i am not trying to get enough calories to grow up strong like DD so i think it's the best answer.

OP the situation you describe was nothing to do with fairness. The teacher should have said "Even if you are being wronged you mustn't back chat adults!". Of course s/he didn't say that because it is so grossly stupid a thing to say! Instead s/he said "life isn't always fair" to absolve her/him self of the thought/problem-solving-laziness of that particular moment.
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#25 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 10:39 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ramama View Post

Okay, here's my thing...I think that the use of the phrase "life isn't fair" is kind of dismissive and teaches children to be complacent and take what is dealt.  It also seems to be used most in a situation where one person is actively and presently being treated unfairly.  With DD, she was accused by the lunch lady of doing something that she didn't do (please don't challenge me on this, I know she didn't do it, even her classroom teacher knows she didn't do it).  DD insisted that she didn't do it, and pleaded her case to the lunch lady, who took it as "talking back."  Basically, the teacher (who I otherwise adore) deemed that "sometimes life isn't fair" and punished DD, not for doing what the lunch lady said she did (which even the teacher knows she didn't do, remember), but because she argued and "talked back" instead of accepting the accusation, even though it wasn't a fair one.

 

Nope - not okay with that. "Life isn't fair" isn't an excuse to treat someone unfairly.

 

 

Now, I totally realize that there comes a time in a person's life when wailing "that's unfair" no longer works, and we're expected to articulate ourselves better, but I'm not sure that squelching a child's natural obsession with fairness is a good thing to do.  I mean, don't people "overly" concerned with fairness become labor organizers, human rights activists, and community organizers? 

 

If I thought this was the case, I might be more concerned with fairness. As it is, most of the adults I've known who are overly concerned with fairness don't end up being any of those things - they end up being self-entitled whiners, who think it's unfair when they have to actually deal with the consequences of their actions. Trying to treat people fairly is one thing. Believing we can somehow make life "fair" is something else...and it's delusional. Life isn't fair. It never was, and it never will be.


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#26 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 10:42 AM
 
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OP, I'm sorry that happened to your daughter. 


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#27 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 12:14 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoBecGo View Post

OP the situation you describe was nothing to do with fairness. The teacher should have said "Even if you are being wronged you mustn't back chat adults!". Of course s/he didn't say that because it is so grossly stupid a thing to say! Instead s/he said "life isn't always fair" to absolve her/him self of the thought/problem-solving-laziness of that particular moment.


If you are being wronged, you do have every right to defend yourself though. Even if you are the child and the other person is an adult.

 

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#28 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 12:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by GoBecGo View Post

I say it quite a lot just now. My nearly 5 year old talks about fairness a lot.

It isn't the kindest thing to say. Sometimes in this house being kind and being honest are mutually exclusive, and sometime sbeing honest is more important than being kind.

Some things just aren't fair and there's no way to make them fair. I am not going to breastfeed my 5yo (who was weaned from the breast at 7mo) to make it "fair" with the baby. I am not going to give my baby candy to make it "fair" with her big sister. When there is only enough milk left for one cereal and one coffee then DP gets the coffee and DD1 gets the cereal, which isn't remotely fair to me but i don't have to get to a WOH job like DP and i am not trying to get enough calories to grow up strong like DD so i think it's the best answer.

OP the situation you describe was nothing to do with fairness. The teacher should have said "Even if you are being wronged you mustn't back chat adults!". Of course s/he didn't say that because it is so grossly stupid a thing to say! Instead s/he said "life isn't always fair" to absolve her/him self of the thought/problem-solving-laziness of that particular moment.

 

regarding the first bolded statement, i agree that sometimes being honest is more important than being kind, but the phrase bothers me i guess, not only because it's unkind and unhelpful, but also because it's dismissive and disrespectful.  it's really akin to saying, "too bad, so sad."  i think you can respond honestly and kindly.

 

second bolded thing:  it is fair that your children each receive age-appropriate nutrition and treats.  maybe not in dd's eyes, but it is.  she had mama's milk as a baby, and baby will have candy as a child.  i agree that dp getting the coffee is terribly unfair to you!  your dp could grab a cheap coffee on the way to work, or probably drink free coffee once there - that would be fair!  but giving dd the cereal?  presumably you're also eating, just eating something different, so as long as everyone's needs are met, it's fair.  if your definition of fair is "equal" then you and dd could both eat something other than cereal for breakfast.  i hope your example doesn't mean that you are going without breakfast - your need is at least as great as hers, since you're breastfeeding.  that would be unfair.
 

 

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#29 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 12:55 PM
 
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I didn't read all the responses, but my mom said that a lot growing up and I HATED it. I think it mostly made me feel like my feelings about something weren't important. Like she would say it when I was upset about something. So I try not to say it and I like reading the things that people say to their kids instead. I think of it as a phrase that one would say when they can't think of anything else in that moment.

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#30 of 53 Old 03-01-2011, 04:35 PM
 
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I agree. I've never heard, "Well, life isn't fair" said in a way that wasn't dismissive and in exactly the same tone of voice one would use to say, "Oh get over it and shut up." I guess it could be said kindly, but I've never heard it used that way. 


Yes, this. And when your kid whines, "That's not faaaaiiir!" about something you did, answering with "Well, life's not fair," is like getting arrested for murder and defending yourself in court with, "People die everyday, I don't see what the problem is!" Regardless of whether or not you murdered somebody, what the heck kind of argument is that?!

 

Actually, I'm having trouble imagining kind uses of the phrase too. Those of you who use it kindly, can you elaborate? What happens if your kid doesn't hear it? Will he or she go through life thinking that life is fair?

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