Skip to main content

Purchase Options

Select Format

Overview

The tools you need to master the toughest negotiations you'll ever face—those with your kids

As every parent knows, kids are surprisingly clever negotiators. But how can we avoid those all-too-familiar wails, “That’s not fair!” and “You can’t make me!”? In The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting, the award-winning journalist and father of five Paul Raeburn and the game theorist Kevin Zollman pair 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.

Raeburn and Zollman open each chapter with a common parenting dilemma. Then they show how carefully concocted schemes involving bargains and fair incentives can save the day. Through smart case studies of game theory in action, Raeburn and Zollman reveal how parents and children devise strategies, where those strategies go wrong, and what we can do to help raise happy and savvy kids while keeping the rest of the family happy too.

Delightfully witty, refreshingly irreverent, and just a bit Machiavellian, The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting looks past the fads to offer advice you can put into action today.

Reviews

"With a light touch and sure-footed mastery of both child-rearing and economics, Raeburn and Zollman bring humor and verve to a serious subject: How to negotiate with your kids in a way that will leave everyone . . . well, not happy, exactly, but with a sense of being treated fairly and with mutual respect. Read it and count on fewer fights at the dinner table, the TV room, and the back seat of the car!" —Robin Marantz Henig, Contributing Writer, The New York Times Magazine; coauthor, with Samantha Henig, of Twentysomething

"The small transactions of parenting—sharing, dividing, collaborating and compromising—are fraught with peril. Solutions that feel fair are not always just, particularly in the eyes of our children. Paul Raeburn and Kevin Zollman achieve two incredible feats in The Game Theorist's Guide to Parenting: they helped me find a way to be fair and just in my parenting while teaching me the basics of game theory. I absolutely loved this book, both as a parent, and as a nerd." —Jessica Lahey, author of the New York Times bestseller The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed

"The Game Theorist's Guide to Parenting will teach you useful strategies from the world of game theory to add to your parenting repertoire. Even game theorists will marvel at Raeburn and Zollman's ability to elucidate deep ideas and turn them into practical rules of thumb for raising children. Humorous, informative, and practical—you should even let your kids read it!" —Scott E. Page, Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics at the University of Michigan

The Authors

Paul Raeburn is the award-winning author of four books, including Do Fathers Matter?, a National Parenting Publications Gold Medal winner and a Mom’s Choice Award winner, and Acquainted with the Night, a memoir of raising children with mental illness. His articles have appeared in Discover, The Huffington Post, The New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, and Psychology Today, among many others. He lives in New York City. Follow him on Twitter at @praeburn and visit his website at www.paulraeburn.com.

Kevin Zollman is a game theorist and an associate professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University. His work has been covered in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Scientific American, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinZollman and visit his website at www.kevinzollman.com.