Hey, did you know that life isn’t fair? I know, I was shocked and dismayed when I first discovered this little secret. How do we define what is fair and what isn’t though? Well, I looked it up here. We’re discussing fairness in terms of life, right? So, let’s take a gander at the first definition. “1a: marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Do you see the word “favoritism?” I do. What does it mean, though? If you’re like me and you look up words then you’ll notice a general cyclical trend when using the dictionary. Therefore, I jumped over to check the entomology of the word instead of running around in circles.

A “disposition to favor one person or family or one class of persons to the neglect of others having equal claims.” Let’s extrapolate a little bit and say that life isn’t fair when one person, for our purposes here, who is equal to another, is treated in a manner that benefits one person over another.” Does that make sense? How does it relate to where we left off at the end of Part One, that we were going to continue to examine the role of communication in life?

I’m glad you asked. We’ve already discussed briefly how we are born with the ability to be receptive to language. It was pointed out that language is much more than words and you thought that was really cool. Or perhaps that was me. Either way. Let’s move on. Let’s agree on the following:

  • From the moment we’re born our brains are developed to the point of being able to be receptive to language.
  • As infants, we are helpless to how we respond to our situation. We cannot change it.
  • Language is more than just words.
  • A typical infant, between the ages of three and six months, can express pain, pleasure, displeasure, hunger and respond to the tones of voice.

I know those points were brought up in Part One but we need to keep them in mind because we are not raised in a vacuum by people who live in a vacuum. I’m calling this, “The Vacuum Principle.” The aforementioned principle is simple. We interact with other human beings and therefore we are influenced by other human beings. Remember this term, because I will be using it again, and I think I’m very clever for having thought of it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most people are raised by other people who either:

  1. Have been exposed to infants.
  2. Have never been exposed to infants.

These two factors are critical in how a child will be addressed by those who are raising it. For our purposes here we are going to use a mother and a father as the primary care-givers. I know that there are myriad situations in which children are raised. I’m not discounting single parents, foster parents, and other means in which a child is raised. We just aren’t addressing those here.

Let’s first address a couple who have just had their first child. We shall name him, “Tim.” We shall name Tim’s parents “Brad” and “Janet.” Brad and Janet are traditionalists who are happy that their new-born son has all of his fingers and toes. They haven’t read anything by Dr. Spock nor any other books on parenting. No, they haven’t even read Parenting For Dummies. This doesn’t mean that they’ve not been exposed to other sources of knowledge, children, etc. and I’m not saying that this is a right or wrong way of raising little Tim.

Here’s Tim, a firstborn child to a couple who have never had any previous children.  However, they have had some experience being around other children, have seen them in television and movies and were once, themselves, children. Both parents share a general sense of “right” and “wrong.”

One common trait amongst human beings is that we often remember negative behaviors and events more than positive events Science explains this behavior as a survival mechanism in order to aid in the prolonging of life. In short, if you touch that hot stove, you’re going to remember not to touch the stove again.

If you’ve had negative experiences with children then you’re likely going to remember them when you have your own. If you had negative experiences as a child then you’re likely going to remember those as well. “When I have children they are not going to act like that” is a common response to the misbehavior of someone else’s children. “When I grow up, I’m not going to treat my kids like I was treated.” The odds are that if you’ve spent any time around children, have children of your own or you were once a child, that you have formulated an idea, in your mind of how you will treat your own children. Even if you don’t expect to ever have children of your own. It’s a logical thinking process of human behavior. You’ve basically already formed a framework of how you’re going to parent your firstborn child.

Expectations. We all have expectations even if we try and avoid them. The mere acknowledgment and effort to not have expectations creates a paradox where one does have expectations. The mindset not to have an expectation is an expectation that you’ll have no expectations. Make sense? Parents have expectations for their children. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having expectations for one’s children. However, how are these expectations communicated? Words, tones, non-verbal communication, etc.  You cannot sit down with a young child and draw up a treaty of behavior. They are tricky little creatures and will most likely renege on their promises. We use our words.

Here are Brad and Janet who both have a general sense of “right” and “wrong.” Right? Except they don’t. They can’t. The Vacuum Principle makes this an impossibility. Why you might ask yourself? If people remember negative events and behavior more than they do positive events then Brad and Janet are more inclined to remember the negative behaviors they’ve experienced as children and around children. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Everything. Maybe one or two things. If Janet was considerably physically disciplined as a child then there’s a possibility that she will likely be more inclined to seek other methods of disciplining Tim. I am not advocating nor disagreeing with physical discipline. That’s another issue for a different discussion. We’re not going into how Janet might respond to the memory bias that she’s developed through her own childhood and subsequent experience around children right now. We are going to point out that Brad has his own memory bias that he’s carrying around. Let’s be creative and state that Brad’s parents didn’t believe in physical discipline. Unlike Janet’s parents, Brad’s parents read that corporal punishment didn’t work as well as other forms of discipline with fewer negative consequences.

Before Tim was ever conceived Brad and Janet already had different parenting styles. In regard to discipline, they both retain a negative bias. Janet, will not, under any circumstances, strike her child due to her own personal experience. Brad believes that he’ll never strike his child because he never experienced corporal punishment as a child. This looks like a good recipe for their future child, Tim. Right? Brad and Janet planned little Tim and discussed parenting styles. They both agreed, for sundry reasons, that they would use their words to discipline their future child. Their words.

Where does favoritism come into the picture? Tim’s just been born, and we’ve not even scratched the surface of how Brad and Janet communicate to him. You’re right. We haven’t addressed favoritism yet. Or have we? How did we define favoritism?

“When one person, for our purposes here, who is equal to another, is treated in a manner that benefits one person over another.”

Brad and Janet are a couple. A single parental unit that, through their mutual experiences, have formed a favored way in which they are going to treat their firstborn child. Tim is the object of favoritism here. If that doesn’t work for you then consider Brad and Janet as two people who are both determined that their child will have a more favored childhood than their own. Tim is still the object of favoritism. In regard to communication; Tim will be disciplined by words.

In the next part, we will discuss expectations of firstborn children, how they relate to parental communication, childhood development and, of course, the power of speech. We might make it to the effects of early childhood disruption by a sibling, but maybe not. I’ll just leave you hanging for right now.