Raeburn/Zollman: The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting

Cover: Game Theorist’s Guide

Cover: Game Theorist’s Guide


by Paul Raeburn (NASW member) and Kevin Zollman
Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 5, 2016, $18.18
ISBN-10: 0374160015
ISBN-13: 978-0374160012

Raeburn writes:

On July 10, 2014, the Wall Street Journal ran a short piece on such things as the pickup dilemma, the bedtime ultimatum, and, yes, the kale conundrum.

Novel investment strategies? Stock pickers’ perils? No. “Parenting secrets from the world of game theory,” as the Journal described them. Game theory — the science of strategic thinking — works for the pros in industry and geopolitics. Why not with the crafty negotiators who happen to be our kids?

When the Journal story appeared, my editor at Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Amanda Moon, immediately saw a book in game-theory parenting. She called Kevin Zollman, a game theorist and philosopher at Carnegie Mellon University who had been quoted in the article, to ask if he were interested.

Paul Raeburn

Paul Raeburn

Then she came to me. What about The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting, she asked? Kevin was ready to go — if I was. Amanda set up a conference call. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had my doubts. A game theorist whose writings are studded with equations? A philosopher whose arguments would be as impenetrable as what I remembered from philosophy in college?

Happily, he was neither. I could tell from the first few minutes of our call that he was intelligent, articulate, and personable. We sealed the deal in a few days.

Once we had developed an outline, we decided to split the chapters between us. I wrote the first draft of half of the chapters, and Kevin wrote the drafts of the other half. Then we passed them back and forth between us until we had what we wanted.

The Game Theorist’s Guide to Parenting is a light-hearted look at some of the common problems of parenting: managing sibling conflict, getting kids to clean up their rooms, making fair decisions, and others. We hope readers will learn something about dealing with their kids, get a dollop of game theory, and chuckle as they make their way through the book.

My advice for others thinking about writing a book with an academic? If you can find somebody like Kevin, do it.

Contact info:

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Apr. 13, 2016

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines to submit your report.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.

Drexel online MS in Strategic & Digital Communication

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