Game Theory Suggestions to Avoid Family Conflict
July 18, 2016

Throughout parenting, every parent hears the exclamation, “But that’s not fair!”, every once and awhile. It’s human nature to want everything to be fair. This desire for fairness, may be rooted back to our hunter-gatherer days. Back then, those who had more during times of scarcity would share food and supplies with individuals who had less–in the hopes that they would do the same if the tables were turned.

A recent New York Times article delves into the idea of utilizing game theory as a way to avoid family conflict and make things more fair overall, in the home. Using the ideas of Paul Raeburn, a co-author of “The Game Theorist’s Guide To Parenting”, the article describes different ways parents can use game theory to avoid family conflicts stemming from feelings of unfairness.

Game Theory Suggestions to Avoid Family Conflict

In order to stop your kids from complaining about things being “unfair,” the New York Times suggest these forms of game theory in parenting:

  1. Auction: Is family conflict sometimes based around who gets to use an electronic device or another desired object? Using an auction to settle who gets to use what at what time is a good way to settle this sort of family conflict. The desired reward (whether it be an iPad or a favorite toy) can be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Kids can pay in Halloween candy or chores.
  2. Tit for Tat: If siblings are on chore duty together, turn it into a game. One child can pick something up, and then the other, and so on. This will stop your child from saying, “I did all the work, it wasn’t fair!”
  3. I Cut, You Pick: This is a strategy that divides up simple things. For example, if you’re cutting up a pizza one of your children gets to cut a slice and the other gets to choose which slice is theirs.
  4. Random Dictator: If no one in the family can decide what to watch on TV or where to go out to dinner, choosing from a hat is a good option to avoid conflict. This avoids any further family confrontation because it is totally random and fair.

Sometimes things can never be fair

Unfortunately, in life, not everything is going to be fair. Even these tricks to try and make things more fair in the home won’t always be received easily by children. It’s important for parents to not get defensive when this happens. Meeting individual needs is more important than making everyone happy, because it’s basically impossible for kids to be happy all the time.
For more information about avoiding family conflict, check out Asheville Academy for Girls.

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