Parenting hacks from Game theory

Games that chuntitledildren play often ends up in fights on -how unfair the other was with her or he got more share than her or she would be the first to start the game …. List is endless but what seem trivial or ‘not so important to adults becomes the matter of utmost prestige and importance to kids. The small things we have to do as parents for kids like sharing, dividing and compromising—become challenge.

We did it as kids and we continue to do this as adults also its just that our games are upgraded. Your colleague getting more bonus than you!

I see my daughter crying over the red ball that she wanted to play first or she remaining upset for days over who got more chocolates by granny or little sis getting more share of cake. I want to tell her its not such a big deal. Its not so important.  I want to cram my learnings of all these years and present a formula and feed my child!. I want to tell her – life is like this, mostly unfair, know your purpose, shuffle the cards and play your game. The instant challenge to present that instant formula feed for understanding and awareness of a 5-7 years old is how they would process that knowledge. So you need anecdotes, Asop fables and examples from daily life to bring your point home.

I was listening to Simon Sinek addressing leaders and executives and I was thinking if I have to present my 6 years old daughter with an idea of ‘Game theory’ how would I do that. The idea of playing your game. I can not give her example of MicroSoft & Apple and how Microsoft keeps an eye on Apple and how Apple just play its game….the concept of Finite and Infinite players. Though its not a bad idea to let the generation of instant gratification and gadgets know the theories of social interaction.

Game theory is a study of mathematics that aims to analyse the strategies competitive situations where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depends critically on the actions of other participants. For example, a game of poker or bridge; hence “game” theory.

In a less literal sense, game theory can be applied to economics, and psychology as “the theory of social interactions”

Well, well, well ! that will be too much too soon. So, as parents I have to play my own games and little tricks.

New York Times reported that “researchers found that children as young as 19 months seem to understand the concept of fairness, and appear surprised by scenes of blatant favoritism – such as when one puppet is given toys and another puppet goes without. By age 7, some children will choose to forgo candy rather than get a significantly larger share than others”.

Here, I come across this book The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting coauthored by the award-winning journalist and father of five Paul Raeburn and the game theorist Kevin Zollman. They  paired up to highlight tactics from the worlds of economics and business that can help parents break the endless cycle of quarrels and ineffective solutions. “Raeburn and Zollman show that some of the same strategies successfully applied to big business deals and politics—such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Ultimatum Game—can be used to solve such titanic, age-old parenting problems as dividing up toys, keeping the peace on long car rides, and sticking to homework routines.”( Scientific American, 2016)

In the book the author states that parents can divide time, but how can they fairly divide the “first time?” Coin tosses and simple games like rock, paper, scissors are often suggested, but they come with their own set of risks, like older kids taking advantage of their younger siblings. Instead, game theorists propose auctions.

According to the authors, “If you have one item that can’t be divided, you want to assign it to the person who desires it most.”

By using an auction system, kids are expected to announce how much they’d be willing to “pay” for an item or experience — Raeburn and Zollman suggest that payment be in the form of chores.

Another bonus: game theory empowers children to take ownership of their decisions and begin to comprehend the consequences — to themselves and others.

When children are faced with the job of cleaning up a joint mess, suggest “you pick up one, then he picks up one,” said Raeburn. “We had mixed results with Tit for Tat,” he admits. His 9-year-old son was able to manipulate his 6-year-old brother into doing more. “This probably works better with children who are closer in age, or at least both over 7.”

Credible Punishments: In game theory as in parenting, you have to deliver on your threats, like actually turning off the TV if you said you were going to, even if it punishes you too. Joshua Gans, an economist at the University of Toronto and the author of “Parentonomics,” offers advice for gaining a credible reputation at home. When his children were young and would disobey, he would say, “I’m thinking of a punishment.” It’s much easier to pretend to think of a punishment than to come up with a new one every time, he notes—or, worse, to issue a noncredible threat in the heat of the moment. (“That’s it, I’m canceling Christmas!”) Once he earned his credibility, he found that he had only to close his eyes and count to 10, and his children would spring into action.( Wall Street Journal, 2014)

All in all, these tricks are not going to work all the time in the desired fashion. Empathy and perspective as parents will always be needed with a cuddle to just reason out with your little one… if you can !

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Categories: children behaviour, Children entertainment, Game theory, hacks for parents, Mental development, Social development, Uncategorized

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