In All Fairness: Using Game Theory To Avoid Family Conflict

sisters-931131_1280Every 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 have its roots back in our hunter-gatherer days. Back then, those who had more during times of scarcity would share food and supplies with those 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”, here are a few suggestions from the aforementioned New York Times article for using 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 that sort of 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, make 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 works very well. This avoids any further conflict because it is totally random and as fair as possible.

Sometimes things can never 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 go on the defensive when this happens. Meeting individual needs is more important than making everyone happy. Because it’s pretty much impossible for kids to be happy all the time.

Asheville Academy can help

If your tween daughter is struggling with emotional and behavioral issues, causing a great deal of family conflict, it might be time to seek help.

Asheville Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for young girls, ages 10-14. Through our clinically intensive program and nourishing environment, your child can be guided to a healthier path.

For more information about Asheville Academy, contact us today at 800.264.8709


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