Every child is different. That seems like such a simple statement, but too often, we forget that truth. If we have more than one child, it's tempting to use a one-size-fits-all parenting approach.
I think God has an amazing sense of humor. As I look at my own family and the families I come in contact with everyday, I see a variety of kids in those families, and it seems to me that a lot of times God gives a single family children with polar opposite personalities. Then, He gets to watch to see what we do with those extremely different kids.
No matter what parenting books tell you, there's no such thing as the "right" parenting approach. There's simply the right approach for your child. That may mean that the right approach for one child in your family is the wrong approach for the other.
My older daughter is a sweet, gentle soul. A raised voice in her direction is enough to send her into a fit of tears. My younger daughter, on the other hand, is immune to stern voices and most punishment. She requires a different approach.
The thought that each child requires their own parenting approach and their own form of discipline may seem inherently unfair to our kids. If the way you discipline one child is different from the way you discipline another, you will here my least favorite words, "That's not fair!" As parents, I think we spend too much time trying to make things "fair" for our kids. We try to evenly split our time, our money, our patience, our discipline and our parenting skills between our children.
The truth is that we're modeling our parenting on God, and God doesn't worry about being fair. Nowhere in the Bible is God described as fair, but He is often described as just. Psalm 50:6 says, "And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice." The difference between being fair and being just is this: fairness tries to equally divide things; justice does what is right.
Think about that for a minute. If we spend less time trying to be fair with our kids and more time trying to be just, we're offering our kids a better parent. If we try to do what's right for each child in our house, instead of trying to do what's fair, then we give our kids what's best for each of them.
So, how do we move from being a fair parent to being a just parent?
Focus on your child's personality. Every child has their own unique way of looking at the world. Focus on what that way is for your child and tailor your parenting to be effective for that child's personality.
Know your child's love language. If you have a child who feels loved by spending time with you, then you'll need to spend more time with that child than you do with a child who feels loved by hearing words of affirmation.
Stop asking, "Is it fair?" Instead ask the question, "Is it just?" When we change our mind-set from fairness to justice, we can focus on the best thing for each child instead of worrying about how our kids will perceive it.
Let your kids know about the change. When you hear cries of, "That's not fair!" explain to your kids that you're not interested in being fair; you're interested in doing what's best for each of them. Talk about how God isn't fair, but He is just. Explain that you want to be a parent that emulates that character of God, so you're focusing on justice over fairness.
Spend a minute or two today evaluating your parenting. Are you a just parent or a fair parent? What do you need to change to become a parent interested in justice rather than fairness?