Teaching “fairness” to preschoolers is one more way to build character

Teaching “fairness” to young children can be accomplished by listening, modeling, and setting boundaries.

“Life isn’t fair!” How many times has someone said this to you? How many times have you said that phrase to the children in your life? Fairness is one of the Six Pillars of Character Education; the other five are “trustworthiness,” “respect,” “responsibility,” “caring” and “citizenship.” Good character traits don’t just happen – they need to be taught and nurtured in children.

Fairness is something that we all want in our daily interactions, and something that all children need to learn. Fairness can mean many things, including taking turns, sharing with others, playing within the rules, listening to others and seeing the many sides of one issue. Here are some suggestions you might want to employ when teaching “fairness” to young children:

  • Set a good example for the children in your life. You are your child’s first teacher and your children watch everything you do. If you are fair with others, your children will mimic your behavior. Treat everyone fairly.
  • Make fairness a priority in your home. Having rules in place can teach children that there are boundaries and limits in life. As children mature, the kind and number of rules can change to fit the age and stage of the child’s development.
  • Listen and get down on the child’s level so they know you are listening. When a child is listened to, he learns that he is important and he will learn to listen to others. Look directly at your child.
  • Give children lots of opportunities to practice being “fair.” Have a child divide up the afternoon snack between siblings, and then let all others choose their portion before he gets his. When children play with children their own age and developmental stage, they have greater opportunities for learning fairness.
  • Observe “fair” and “unfair” behavior in movies, children’s books and in life. Discuss those behaviors with your child. Asking, “What could he have done instead?” is one way to assist your child in thinking about “fair” options.
  • Watch for things your child is doing “right” and let them know that you noticed. Show appreciation and admiration when your child behaves in a “fair” manner to others. Talk about what they did that was “fair” and how proud it makes you feel that they are treating others in a way that they want to be treated.
  • Play with your children. Give children opportunities to play card and board games that can teach fairness skills. Model good sportsmanship when it comes to winning and losing. Children will learn how to behave with others through play.

Some children’s books that you might want to explore at your local library with your child that include lessons on fairness are: “That’s not fair, Hare!” by Julie Sykes; “Playing the Game” by Kate Petty and Charlotte Firmin; and “It’s Mine by Leo Lionni. Read the stories and discuss if the characters are playing fairly and by the rules. Talk about stories with your children as you read them together.

When you model and teach your child the life skill of “fairness,” you are helping to build character that counts!

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