This question is triggered by the current COVID-19 pandemic, but should please be seen as a more general question.
To cut a long story short, a long-planned birthday party sleepover at a friends house was violating both the existing and newly imposed contact restrictions and curfew rules issued by the government. The plans both exceed the permitted number of participants and the duration.
We had expected that the host family would cancel the event, but they decided to proceed as planned. So we as parents decided that we weren’t comfortable with our daughter attending1 and she stayed home. The other friend of the BFF trio (birthday girl is no. 3) went, and it seems they had a lot of fun.
Our daughter intellectually understands our reasoning and accepted our decision without fuss. But of course she was disappointed and sad on the evening of the party.
How can we help our children deal with situations where following the rules means that they are being “punished” for doing so while others are blatantly ignoring them and are being “rewarded” for their behavior?
This question applies to a whole lot of situations, like not cheating at tests when others do so, get better grades and are not caught, or showing fairness and self restraint when dealing with egoistic peers that will grab as much as they can... The list of examples could be continued ad infinitum.
1 Not part of the question, just a bit of background details: The fact that the other guests and the host family were quite nonchalantly willing to ignore the safety precautions fit with our previous general observation of them being rather careless, socializing in larger and mixing circles etc., and we do have vulnerable family members whose well-being we have to consider. In other words, we didn’t trust them enough in the specific situation.