A Tale of Two Kids — Which One Is Yours?

A tale of two kids, wisdom and foolishness, sibling rivalry, opposites, girls, teens, bored

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”

Sounds like Dickens was writing about the teen years.

Our kids do not always realize that they have their entire lives ahead of them. They can choose to have EVERYTHING before them or they can choose to have NOTHING before them. The question is – which will they choose? Will it be an age of wisdom or an age of foolishness? Depending on their choice, what at first appears to be the “worst of times” may turn out to be the “best of times” for them.

Here is a tale of two kids wanting the same end result. For the sake of clarity, we will call the first child “A” and the second child “B.”

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Does Shame Hide in Your Home?

Does Shame hide in your home? The key word here is “hide.” Shame can only live in darkness, hiding. Once it is found out and exposed, all bets are off. It’s been caught, had, busted.

Shame is the biggest enemy of self-worth. It destroys the hope of being worthy of love and acceptance. It’s goal is to squash you and make you feel lower than a snake’s belly. And more often than not, it succeeds.

Psychotherapist and author, Beverly Engel says, “Shame is the most destructive of human emotions. Shame destroys a person’s self-esteem and sense of who they are and causes people really serious problems. It’s the core issue of addiction and can cause other issues like suicide,depression and anger. For those dealing with addiction there is a Austin rehab options for young adults which are recommended.”

Shame has been a familiar enemy in my life, and I have mistakenly welcomed it as if it were a friend. The path of destruction that shame leaves behind is beyond heinous. Self-blame, self-criticism and self-destruction are just a few of the bad fruit that grow from this monstrous tree. And if left unchecked, shame can lead to self-loathing — the mother of suicide.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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6 Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying

This week we’re talking about helping kids overcome lying, and today is the day our readers have been waiting for. It is the nuts and bolts of HOW to help your child overcome the habit of lying.

If you are jumping in today, take a moment to go back and read Confessions of Reformed Liar and 7 Myths About Lying. They lay an important mindset foundation that we have to grasp before we can successfully tackle today’s Six Steps to Helping Kids Overcome Lying.

Are you ready? Here we go!

Step #1 — Be VERY careful not to shame the child.

We can’t emphasize this one enough! Children who struggle with telling the truth will avoid shame at all costs, and if you shame a liar, you will eventually create a better liar. They’ll perfect their “skills” so that they they don’t get caught and have to face shame.

When you are confronting someone who may have been untruthful, be gentle. Remind the child that there are some things that come naturally for her (tell her what those are) and some things she has to work at (like telling the truth). Tell her that a lot of people have to work at telling the truth — she is not alone. Emphasis how much you love her and how much you think she is awesome.

Separate the child from her choices. She is a great person who simply made a mistake, and your job is to help her learn how to become a truth teller.

Be VERY aware of your facial expression and your body language.

Search your child’s face to see how she is reacting to you. If she senses shame, she will react, and if you train yourself to look for it, you will be able to shift gears and let her know that you love her and that you are committed to her success.

But that doesn’t mean ignore it. Which leads me to…

Step #2 — Address every instance of untruth

This week I have been talking about how lying can be habit forming. We have to be diligent and willing to gently address every exaggeration, tall tale, omission of the truth and possible lie.

What if you aren’t sure whether or not your child is lying? Kids who have formed a habit of lying learn to get pretty good at it. But often, you will sense that something isn’t quite right. It’s as if you can smell the lie, even though you’re not sure what it is. If you suspect something is off, address it.

Also, don’t overlook storytelling, especially with a kid who struggles with lying. In yesterday’s post, I explained the kind of storytelling I mean. If you catch your child trying to pass imagination off as truth, tell them him he has a great imagination, and then give him the words to try again. “That’s a great story Johnny. You are so creative. Next time you could say, ‘Mom, I thought of a really cool story. Can I share it with you?’ That way you aren’t pretending that it really happened.”

This is work on our part, but we have to be willing to faithfully (and with great love and gentleness) call them out when we suspect something is up.

The word “lie” carries an element of shame with it. So when you’re confronting this, try not to use it. Instead of saying, “Johnny, I think you’re lying.” Say something like, “Johnny, I think it might have happened differently. Try again, and I’ll help you tell the story the way it really happened.”

Step #3 — Separate the child from the behavior, and communicate love and acceptance for the child.

The goal is for your child to fully understand and believe that you are on her team; you are 100% committed to her success, and you do not think any less of her for struggling with this, just as you wouldn’t think any less of a child who struggles with learning how to read or how to ride a bike.

Let’s say something is broken and you suspect your daughter broke it. You ask her, and she denies it. You can say, “I know it’s hard to explain what really happened. It can be scary to think that mom or dad will be angry with you. But I’m going to help you, and together, we will piece together the real, actual truth and then figure out what to do next. You don’t have to be afraid because I love you all the time, and I think you are awesome when you do great things AND when you make mistakes. I love you because of who you are, not because what you do or don’t do.”

Step #4 — Help the child understand her motives.

Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D., author of Smart Love: The Compassionate Alternative  to Discipline that Will Make You a Better Parent and Your Child a Better Person, said, “Children distort reality in an effort to ward off an unwanted turn of events or as a way of feeling in control of themselves and the world…Helping them to understand their motivation makes them realize that they can come to parents and share their struggles.”

Helping our kids understand their own motives can also lead them to develop self-compassion. It’s not about letting them off the hook. It’s about helping them to understand what happened so they become more self aware. Once they understand the need they were trying to meet when they chose to lie, we can help them find a better way of meeting that need.

Step #5 — Praise positive effort along the way

Kids sometimes need help going back and piecing together the truth. You can start by asking, “What happened first?”

As she starts to explain the story, praise every effort of honesty. If you sense that she’s veering away from truth, gently point it out and help direct her back. You can say, “You were running through the living to room to get your brother. But then something happened that made the vase fall and break. Can you remember what it was?”

As she starts to tell what really happened, avoid the temptation to feel offended that she lied to you. Let’s face it, it’s very frustrating when someone lies. You feel like you can never trust them. But remember that for a kid who struggles with truth telling, this is super hard. So when she begins to piece together the real story, let her know that you are aware of the courage she’s showing and that you are proud of her. It will give her the courage to keep going.

Step #6 — Speak a new truth

Once the story comes out, praise your child for her hard work, and then say, “ I am so proud of you because every day you are becoming more and more of a girl who always tells the truth.”

Jody and I believe that this step is critical to the long term success of building a truth teller.

No matter how many times a day you have to confront this issue with the same child, end every single session with those words. It will take time, but eventually, she will build a new identity as a girl who always tells the truth.

Earlier this week, I shared a little about the nine month journey that I took with one of my children to help him tell the truth. During that time, I must have said those words hundreds, if not a thousand times (“Every day you are becoming more and more of a boy who always tells the truth.”). It took nine months to see real victory, but the battle was won because he began to see himself as a truth teller.

In that season of our life, there was a big temptation for our little ones to go into our bedroom, climb up on our headboard and jump on our bed. And this was a huge no, no!

One day, my son came to me with tears in his eyes and a deeply repentant look on his face.  He said, “Mommy, I have to tell you what happened because I am a boy who always tells the truth.” No one had seen him do it. He could have easily gotten away with it, but after nine months of hearing the words “you are becoming a boy who always tells the truth” spoken over him, he accepted his new identity as a truth teller. And so he confessed to climbing on my headboard and jumping on my bed.

Whenever I tell that story, I usually get this question: “Did you discipline him for jumping on the bed?” And the answer is yes. Of course I did. I would have done that boy no service by letting it go. He knew it was a major rule in our house, and he knew he broke the rule. Facing the consequence gave him confidence that he could tell the truth, endure the repercussions with bravery and still be okay.

I told him how very proud of him I was for being courageous and being an excellent truth teller. I was tender and full of love, especially as I helped him face the consequence of jumping on the bed, and afterwards, I told him that I forgive him and said that I love him and that I think he’s a brave boy.

As difficult as this process may be for the child, rest assured that they will always feel a tremendous relief when the truth is told, especially when they see that there is no condemnation in your eyes.

It can be very upsetting when someone lies to you. You feel betrayed and manipulated, and it can make you really angry. Your initial reaction might be, “How could you lie to me like that? How can I ever trust you?” But remember, the person who struggles with this needs to feel freedom from condemnation in this process. They need to know that you are on their side and will help them without judgement.

Be Patient

Be patient in this one. Give this process a year. You may be doing it multiple times a day, everyday, for months on end. Don’t lose heart. Go into it know that it is going to take time. Avoid any form of condemnation, and present yourself as a coach and mentor whose only goal is to help empower your child to become a truth teller, and in time, you will succeed!

We know this is a challenging topic for so many parents. Please feel free to contact us with any questions and to leave comments below.

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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How Do I Forgive When I Don’t Feel Like It?

A while back, we  posted The 6 A’s of Apology and The 4 Promises of Forgiveness, and someone posed a question on our Facebook page. She asked how you forgive someone who isn’t really sorry. It’s a great question, but it assumes that forgiveness is something that the other person somehow earns.

Forgiveness really has nothing to do with the other person. On the contrary, staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. If left unchecked, unforgiveness turns to bitterness, and there is a great body of scientific evidence showing that bitterness leads to illness — both physical and psychological. According to Dr. Charles Raison, “The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous. The data is just as established as smoking, and the the size of the effect is the same.”

The word forgive is a verb. It’s something you do, not necessarily something you feel. It’s an act of will. You decide to forgive. You choose to forgive, regardless of what the other person says or does.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that what the other person did was okay. It does not mean they were somehow correct or justified in their actions. In fact, that’s why we tell parents not to let their kids say, “It’s okay” when someone apologizes to them. Instead, we encourage them to say, “I forgive you,” because it’s not okay, but we can still forgive them.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Conflict is a Stewardship

If you have people in your life, we can PROMISE that at some point you WILL have conflict. And that goes for our kids too. How we handle it makes all the difference. Just as we can teach our kids to be good stewards over things like time, money, belongings and even schoolwork, we can give them tools to help them become good stewards of conflict.

A steward is a manager, someone appointed to oversee something or to look after it. Conflict is something that has to be managed carefully or else it can lead to all sorts of bad results, one of which is becoming (and staying) offended.

Offense is lethal. Being offended and staying offended is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It causes a root of bitterness to anchor itself into the offended person’s life, destroying their peace, their health and their relationships.

But the truth is, staying unoffended is no small feat. It takes enormous work. Recently, we were teaching this topic to a group of adults, and one man asked why he should bother going to the trouble of working through this stuff. “Just walk away,” he said. But that’s not the answer.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Their Name is Today – Review and Giveaway

I love the title of this book!

Their Name is Today is an awesome reminder that our kids won’t stop growing to wait for us to get our act together or get through this project or that crisis. They need our love and our focus right here and right now.

In his book Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World, author Johann Christoph Arnold reminds us that “as long as we have children entrusted to our care, we cannot forget that the demands they make on us must be answered in the present. Their name is today. Whatever children need in the way of guidance, security and love, they need now. Because soon enough it will be time for them to fly on their own, and then there will be no holding them back.”

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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THE Best Potty Training Method

After having potty trained my first five kids, I had decided that potty training was surely the armpit of parenting. But all that changed with my sixth.

My oldest is autistic. That, coupled with no prior experience, made for potty training hell.

My second was born shortly after my first, and I spent so much time trying to figure out what my firstborn needed and become an expert in his disability and keep him from hurting her that potty training was not on my radar. She wasn’t trained until she was three.

When I used the 3 day potty training method to have my third potty trained before 2 1/2, I thought I was superwoman, but the whole experience was still tenuous, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull if off again. Of course, I did. Our fourth and fifth were also potty trained around 2 1/2, and each time, it felt like we were playing a guessing a game and that at some elusive point in the game, we’d guessed right and they began to put their pee and poop in the potty.

However, what was successful by day didn’t always translate to night. A few of those first five were longterm bed wetters.

With our sixth child, we learned about Elimination Communication, and I began following one blog in particular. It was written by Andrea Olson of GoDiaperFree.com (formerly of EC Simplified). When my son was a year and a half, Andrea wrote about her son’s transition to full-time potty training, and she linked to the method she was using.

Who knew that clicking on that link would change my life? Well…at least this part of my life. That day I downloaded Oh Crap! Potty Training, and since then my whole outlook on potty training has radically changed.

Now, for those of you who are planning to do as I did, and promptly download this game changing book, let me warn you…the author Jamie Glowacki is a straight shooter, no-nonsense (albeit hilarious) writer with a great fondness for 4-letter words. If that offends you, I strongly urge you to push past it and make bleeping sounds in your mind when your eyes fall upon one of them. Her perspective on this topic is so profound and her method is so effective, that is well worth overlooking some bad words. And it’s is a quick read. So keep the good; toss the bad words, and be enlightened.

I used the Oh Crap! method with our sixth child, and not only was he potty trained at 21 months (and in a just a few days!), but her method taught me how to prevent the whole bed wetting thing. So now, as Matty Jay nears the 2 1/2 year mark, he’s a potty champion who sleeps in his own little bed, in his own room and wakes up dry in the morning (on most days)!

I kept a potty training blog diary, so you can see how it all worked. Have a look, and be sure to tune in to our radio show TODAY at 10:00AM on WSRQ Radio. We’re going to interview Jamie Glowacki and talk more about the Oh Crap! Potty Training method.

Local listeners can find us on 1220AM or 106.9Fm or 98.9FM. Out of town listeners can go to the WSRQ Website and listen live, streaming or get instructions on how to download the mobile app and listen on the go.

And if, by chance you miss it, we will post the podcast here on our website sometime after Monday night.

Potty Training Diaries

Potty Training Diaries — Day 1-ish

Potty Training Diaries — Day 2

Potty Training Diaries — Day 3

Potty Training Diaries — Day 4

Potty Training Diaries — Days 5-7

Potty Training Diaries Update — Have Potty Will Travel

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Does Your Child Have This Habit?

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Originally posted in March, 2011

Recently an 11-year-old asked me a question that so impressed me, I was inspired to add new step in my family’s daily routine.

A few weeks ago, we were setting up for a big community garage sale as a fundraiser to help finance a week-long training camp for teens at the state capitol.  During set up, I spent more time chasing down the kids to help than actually working.  The fundraiser was for them, not the adults, but the adults seemed to be doing all the work, and I was irritated, to say the least.

Holding a serving spoon with a glob of nacho cheese caked to it, I turned to the nearest child to ask that it be cleaned.  Subconsciously, I expected her to comply, but it was clear the kids had their own agenda that day. They were there to socialize, and all parental orders distracted them from their real purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all obedient kids. There was no real disrespect, and they all did what was asked without complaint.  It was more of a clash of expectations — we expected them to socialize in the midst of the real agenda – work – and they expected to have to do some work in the midst of their real agenda – socializing.

So there I was, searching for a teen, cheese-encrusted spoon in hand.  Anna was closest to me, and at this point, my expectations had been set. I figured she’d take the spoon, shoulders subtly slumped at the faint disappointment of having to interrupt her conversation, and run off to the sink so she could hurry back and resume the real work of socializing.

Instead, she smiled and said, “Sure!” and reached out her hand to take the spoon. She was cheerful and unrushed, and everything about her body language said, “I have no other agenda right now but to serve you.”

When she returned, she didn’t drop the spoon on the table in a rush to resume her conversation. Instead, she handed me the spoon and said, “Is there anything else you would like me to do?”

I was amazed. Had she really just asked me if she could do anything else? And with a smile, no less?  WOW! My first instinct was to kiss her sweet cheeks and tell her to go play.  Her attitude made me want to bless the socks off her.  The truth of the matter was, I still needed her help, but after she completed a few more tasks for me, I lavished her in praise and sent her on her way.

Returning to frustration, I went on a manhunt to find the other teens, but Anna’s character that day inspired a new plan for my own kids.  Just like teaching our kids to use the potty, it’s all in the training.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

Just like everything else we’ve trained in our kids, it takes persistent, hard work.  The truth is, we have to start by training ourselves.  Building a new character trait in a child starts with the parents making a decision, setting a plan, and then disciplining themselves to work the plan consistently. But it’s worth the payoff.

Here’s the plan we’ve been using:

  • We started by explaining that anytime a request is made or instruction is given, they are to return when they’re done and ask, “Is there anything else you would like me to do?”  That question is really what completes their task.
  • Then came role-playing. Whenever we role-play, we start small.  So in this case, it was “Bring me a tissue” or “Bring me a glass of water.” If they returned without asking the new question, we asked, “Is your task really complete?”
  • Just like any other habit, as we enforce it with every little task, it will soon become second nature to them.

It’s easy to focus on making sure they do their homework and keep their room clean, but it’s those subtle issues of character and attitude that can slip under our radar, and yet in life, these are the principle things.  God is faithful to point them out when we’re paying attention, and our reward for diligence is a respectful and cheerful child who blesses the people around him.

Occasionally we might even garner a few heart-warming compliments.  At the yard sale, it was my pleasure to pour out praises on Anna’s mom.  She deserved as much recognition as Anna.

At the end of the day, the work of character training pays large dividends.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Mommy, Please Don’t Be Harsh

We love our kids with all of our heart, don’t we? But when we’re caught in the heat of anger, we can forget how delicate they are. It’s as if a strange veil comes over our eyes, and we can’t see their pain; we can only see our own anger.

But our momentary feelings of rage can cause a soul wound in our kids that lasts a lifetime. We will probably forget our own scowl (if we’re even aware of it) moments after our anger dissipates, but the image of that scowl can be burned on their memories for years.

There’s a line between being firm and being harsh. Our kids want us to be firm; it makes them feel safe to know that we have placed secure boundaries on their lives. We have to be clear in our expectations and consistent with correction, but the great challenge for us is to stay calm and gentle, even when we’re angry.

If  you feel anger begin to rise, pause. Go in another room and ask yourself which of the five causes of anger you’re dealing with in this situation. Just taking a few minutes to unpack the anger can help minimize it.

Remember that anger is a red flag to let you know that there’s a problem. Ask yourself what the root of the issue is and what correction tool would do the best job of helping your child learn and grow to overcome the problem.

Stay calm, and remember that in these moments, you are shaping their hearts and their character. So be firm, but don’t be harsh.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Why Fairness is Wrong

“THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

How many times have we heard that cry, parents? If you’ve got more than one kid in the house, you probably hear it (or another version of it) often.

Recently, I sat my kids down and told them that they’re wrong to expect things to be fair.

Before I dug deeper into the reasoning of it, I did little role playing. I asked one of my kids to imagine that he was being hired to work on a farm. He’d have to work all day in the hot sun, and the work would be hard. I asked him what he thought would be a fair price for the whole day’s work. He said $50 (that’s a lot to an 11 year old). Just to be sure, I asked again. “Are you absolutely sure that’s enough? It’s going to be a long day. It’ll be hot and dirty, and you’re going to have to work very hard.” He stuck to his price, and we shook on it.

Then I told the kids that in the late morning, I would be heading out to the marketplace, and while I’m there, I’m going to pick up another worker. I called one of my kids up to represent this person.

Another kid came up to represent the worker I found in the early afternoon, and a third kid represented a worker hired in the late afternoon. A fourth kid came up to illustrate the final worker of the day, who joined the team in the last hour.

When the working day was done, I lined them all up in the order that they had been hired, and I paid the last kid first – the one who had only worked for an hour. I gave him $50. As expected, I heard the outcries from my son who was hired as the first worker. “What? He gets $50? That’s not fair!” I continued to pay each person $50, including the offended son. (FYI – this was all imaginary. They hadn’t really worked, and I wasn’t doling out real money.)

When I paid him, I asked why he thought $50 wasn’t fair. It was the price he had agreed to.

He said it wasn’t fair that he was getting paid the same amount of money as the guy who’d only worked an hour. In fact, he said, he should be paid the most because he worked the longest. I reminded him again that I paid him exactly what he had asked to be paid – the price that he thought was fair for the work.

Then I told him that I wanted to be generous and give more than expected to the other workers. I asked him if he thought I had a right to do what I wanted with my own money. He stuck to the unfair argument.

“You’re right son,” I said, “it is not fair,” but you are wrong to expect fairness.

I took the object lesson from a page in the Bible. Matthew 20 tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and in it, Jesus tells the grumbling workers that their eye is evil for coveting what was given to the other workers.

You Can’t Expect Fairness, But You Can Expect Justice

Fairness is not a basic human right.

There are many families who are desperate for just one child but can not conceive. I have six children. That’s not fair.

My neighbors have three vehicles, and we have only two. That’s not fair.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates take turns being the wealthiest man in the world while a middle-aged man lives under the bridge in my town. That’s not fair.

A demand for fairness is a socialist demand — one that seeks a redistribution of wealth. We believe in the virtues of a free market system, but fairness is not a rule of that system.

Although fairness is not a basic right, justice is. Justice says that all humans have unalienable rights endowed by their creator. The Declaration of Independence said that among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In our house, the kids are not allowed to demand fairness, but they are allowed to demand justice. If one kid hurts another, the offended child can expect my husband and I to correct the offender. They can expect the offender to humbly apologize and take action steps toward restitution.

Things won’t always be equal or fair. Sometimes one kid will get more attention or more privileges or more favor. Sometimes one kid will be asked to work harder than the others. Sometimes one kid will have to make more sacrifices than the others, and there’s no guarantee that it will ever completely even out.

But they can always count on our love and devotion to them. They can always count on our willingness to hear them and respect their individuality. They can always count on us to mediate their conflicts to the best of our ability and to make choices for them out of an earnest desire for their greater good.

Our form of justice will never be perfect because we are not perfect, but it will always be our best attempt.

So the next time your kids cry out, “That’s not fair!” You can say, “You’re right. It’s not fair, but in this life we have no right to demand fairness, only justice. And although this is not fair, it’s still just.”

Your thoughts?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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