Fairness is one of those topics that’s so hard to pin down: what exactly is fair? When you have more than one kid, the subject of fairness always comes up. It’s hard to be exactly the same to each child, if not downright impossible. So what’s a dad to do, especially one who enjoys having fun with his kid and rejoices in being the “fun” parent?

Where do I begin on this subject? I guess the first thing I should do is actually learn how to do what I am writing about. But since I have been trying to do that ever since my second child was born ten years ago, and I have not found a magic formula yet, I am just going to wing it and hope I write something that makes sense. If you are a father of one, you are not going to have too many problems in this area. If you are a father of several, like 4 in my case, well, things get more complicated. You see, the kid who does not get their way always cries “UNFAIR!”

Now then, why do guys have to worry about being fair so much? Well, we have to be the disciplinarians. Comedian Chris Rock said in one of his routines, “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful a mama can say than, ‘I’m gonna tell your daddy!’” And, let’s face it, moms carried these manipulative little monsters inside their bodies, creating a connection that men can never really understand; a connection that kids will play on to get out of punishment every single time. It is like the kid wonders how to get privileges back, spots Mom doing something motherly and loving, and thinks, “Ah, the Force is weak in this one!” The kid then composes a sad and put-upon face, maybe sheds a tear or two if the infraction was especially heinous, and Mom caves.

So, dads have to be strong when it comes to laying down the law. We also have to be fair. And all of that has to be balanced by being fun and interesting to our kids as well, lest we become the hardasssed jerk that the kids we love just resent. It is a difficult balancing act to maintain, and I do not have it down after 10 years of trying (my second child is 10 years old, life was not so baffling when there was only one).

What has worked for me, more or less, is the following set of rules:

  • Let the punishment fit the crime: Taking away one of their video games in response to them destroying one of mine is fair. Taking away their right to oxygen is not. Even if I may feel it’s an appropriate punishment.
  • Own your part of whatever happened: If I let my smallest child play with one of my collectibles, when I know up front the kid destroys everything he touches…Well, I have to let it slide when I get the expected result.
  • Punishment scales with age: Remember, the oldest has had the most amount of time to learn the rules, and if he/she has not gotten it yet, the punishment should be more severe; there is a limit to how much explaining you can do before other means must be employed.
  • Make sure you demonstrate love to your kids, at an appropriate time after the punishment has been accepted: Love is an action, and kids respect more what they see or experience than what you tell them. Be sure you give them the opportunity to understand that what you were upset about was what they did, not who they are. Boys seem to get this more easily than daughters, I don’t know why.

While this list is nowhere near complete, it is what comes to mind now. I will possibly revisit the topic later once the kids remind me of my duties and my failings in fulfilling them. Other dads, please give feedback.