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Stop Trying to be “Fair” to Your Kids

Jeff:
Today we have kind of a comment or question from one of our members in our Five Minute Fatherhood Facebook group. First off, if you’re not in that group, you should be. It’s a place where we encourage, we teach, we go live, we do Q and A’s. It’s a blast. The community on there is amazing. If you’re one of the members listening, we love you guys. Thanks so much for engaging in there.

This one is from Matthew. And a couple of people actually liked this one, and why we wanted to kind of upvote it to actually talk about it. Matthew said, “One thing I think about regularly is how to show each child the same amount of love and attention. My wife and I are planning to have more than one child, and I struggle by often seeing that that one child would receive more attention than the other and the middle child gets left out, et cetera. How do you make sure you show each child the same amount of love and attention to where they feel it?”

And obviously there’s a couple of other notes there for Jeremy… I want to hear specifically from you… that I’m excited to hear. But real quick, Matthew, what I kind of commented to, but I’m glad we get to spend a little more time on this episode commenting, is: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten was from another mentor of mine who actually… We were talking about this exact issue years ago, and he kind of said, “How creative and cool is God, that when you have a child it’s not splitting up your love; God actually expands your capacity for love.” And I love that picture, or that framework. And I’ve seen that to be true, because you actually think of this, “Oh man, less time and more energy, et cetera,” when, in reality, you feel that your heart gets expanded, its capacity to love each child in a full-force way. Now of course there’s practicals there. Of course there’s kind of ways that… logistically how that happens. So I think with that, I think that really comes down to planning, being methodical, getting things on the calendar, prioritizing, having little ways and tips and tricks to hack your way to actually connecting.

It sounds weird, but one of the things that we have a deep aversion to in the West is scheduling things that we think should be special or romantic, whether that’s romantic in a marriage, and having date nights, et cetera. Schedule it. Put it on the calendar rather than just, “Oh, it’s going to feel really good, and we’re going to go that night because we want to go on a date night.” No, you probably actually won’t, you’ll probably be tired, you’ll want to go to bed. Go on a date night. And same thing with the kids, more in special moments or connecting moments. Just schedule it. And it’s weird how we sometimes thinks that minimizes the love, when I think it actually shows the love. Because love equals commitment. And that usually… Another word for that is schedule. So I don’t know. Jeremy, what would you say?

Jeremy:
Yeah, I think one of the perspectives that the Family Teams kind of paradigm when we’re building multigenerational teams, is to kind of be careful of… The culture really is obsessed with the idea of fairness in the family. Because we think about each of our children as individuals, so when we’re looking at that, oftentimes we’re really concerned about, “Hey, you should all look and feel exactly the same.” And if you’re on a team, that just never happens, right? So if you’re on a team and you’re trying to coach your team to win a game, you’re going to spend different kinds of time with different kinds of players. So I think that we need to be careful of creating the expectation with our children that, “Hey, this should look exactly the same.”

Jeff:
Yes.

Jeremy:
“We should give you exactly the same kind of money, exactly the same number of hours, exactly the same kind of attention. Every single day or every single week, it should always look completely equal.” And I know that the thing that you have to be really careful of, if you do begin to sort of coach a team and then sort of calibrate the way that you’re spending time, the way that you’re giving and thinking about helping each person on the team based on maybe what they need and what’s going on in the team at that moment, is that one of your kids could look at a sibling and say, “I don’t know that Dad loves me as much as he loves her or him.” That is very dangerous.

One of the things that I read a while back… Stephen Covey, who was famous for writing Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he also wrote a book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. And he made the same kind of point. He spent a lot of individual time with his kids, but he calibrated it to what they needed. And he said anytime one of his kids… He had nine children, I think… would come up to him and say, “Hey, why aren’t you doing that for me” or whatever, he would always translate that in his head, every one of those questions, as, “I don’t know if you really love me.” So instead of just immediately going to saying, “I’m just going to equalize all of this so you guys stop asking this question,” he would say, “No, there’s something going on in my kid’s heart. There’s a doubt that is being seeded there, and I need to speak directly into that doubt, and I need to really think about: How can I reach this child’s heart so that they can know and experience the love I have for them?”

And I think that’s really, really great. So if you have that kind of a perspective, I think it’s okay for you to let a lot of the ways that you’re fathering your children look different in different seasons and for different kids. But what you have to watch out for is, anytime one of your children might be saying things to you that could sound just like whining or complaining or asking or wondering, but maybe what you should be translating a lot of those questions in your head as: “Do you love me, Dad?” “Do you love me as much as you love him or her?” And you need to be able to speak directly into that child. And that could require thinking about their love language, thinking about: “What are things that is going to really reach their heart?” I think it’s a lot better approach than simply attempting to enforce a sort of religious fairness across the family, because it’s not actually addressing the heart issue.

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
We are very different, and we need to think about how to express love to each of our kids in a way that really touches them in how they’re built.

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