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What Privileged Kids Mean When They Say, “It’s not fair.” Sociology Professor, Jess Calarco, Addresses Parents

Sociology professor with specific interest in studying children, families, schools and inequalities, Jess Calarco is hoping that rich parents can address and make adjustments in parenting their privileged kids, because her broad knowledge, corroborated by other researches makes it pretty obvious that  privileged kids – and privileged parents – have a broken sense of what’s fair, and may therefore be raising entitled children who demand support far much in excess of what is fair.

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Jess cites the research of Shamus Khan, an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University to drive home her point on the raising of an adolescent elite. In the text, Khan reveals that privileged kids are not just the children of celebrities and CEO’s, and that plenty of mundanely privileged kids, including the kids of lawyers and doctors and even college professors and teachers – have a broken sense of fairness, as well.

The words “It’s not fair” according to the author is not uncommon for privileged kids to throw around each time they don’t have their way, but she warns that parents should not just say in response that “Life isn’t Fair” because understanding the social context of what is fair is even more important for the kids growth.

Read the twitter thread she made on the subject below:

“It’s not fair.” If you spend time with kids, you probably hear those words a lot. And for adults, it’s easy to respond with “Life isn’t fair.” But if your kid is growing up with privilege, that response is problematic. Here’s why:

When a privileged kid says “it’s not fair,” what they almost always mean is “I’m not getting what I want.” So if an adult responds with “life’s not fair,” what the kid hears is “You’re not getting what you want, and that’s not fair.”

That response teaches privileged kids to see fairness only through their own eyes. To ignore the real injustices that exist in the world, or, maybe worse, to see their own inconveniences as equally “unfair.”

So if your privileged kid says “it’s not fair,” acknowledge what they’re feeling, but challenge their meaning of “fair.”

Here’s what I tell my 4-year-old when she says “it’s not fair”: “You’re not getting what you want. But that doesn’t make it unfair. Fair is when everyone gets what they need, and when everyone has the same chance to get what they want.”

Given the events of this past week, it seems pretty obvious that privileged families have a broken sense of what’s fair. And we can see that not only in the case of celebrities’ and CEOs’ kids but also in case of more mundanely privileged kids, as well.

As I’ve found in my work, middle and upper-middle-class white kids see themselves as above the rules. They demand support far in excess of what’s fair. They break rules with impunity. And when they get caught, they try to talk their way out punishment – and they often succeed.

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In her book, Negotiating Opportunities, the mum-of-one, identified in particular that middle and upper-middle-class white kids see themselves as above the rules.

” They succeed because of the power of privilege. Because teachers and school administrators are afraid of what privileged kids (and privileged parents) will do if privileged kids aren’t allowed to win the game.

And to that, I’d say “it’s not fair.”

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