Kids Are Master Manipulators. So Use Game Theory Against Them
Kids are master manipulators. They play up their charms, pit adults against one another, and engage in loud, public wailing. So it’s your job to keep up with them.
by CHELSEA LEU
KIDS ARE MASTER manipulators. They play up their charms, pit adults against one another, and engage in loud, public wailing. So it’s your job to keep up with them, Carnegie Mellon’s Kevin Zollman says. His new book, The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting—written with journalist Paul Raeburn—explains how.
For siblings who refuse to work together, Zollman recommends a version of the prisoner’s dilemma. Assign them a task they can do jointly, like picking up the toys, then give them each the same reward or punishment based on their performance as a team: If one kid slacks off, the next time around the other one is likely to refuse to cooperate, and both will lose out. Over time, this setup compels teamwork.
Make Them Pay
Who gets the bigger room? Who gets to name the cat? It’s the old King Solomon problem: Some things you just can’t cut in half. So have kids bid with chores or their allowance. If one of them wants to name the cat Macaroni & Cheese, he’ll have to pay for it.