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:

NASW members: will your book be published soon? Take advantage of this opportunity for shameless self-promotion. Submit your report for Advance Copy.

Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.

See https://www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines.

Thinking of writing a book? If you are a NASW member, you may access a list of more than 150 books and online resources to help you craft your book proposal, find an agent and funding sources, negotiate your contract, learn about self-publishing, publicize and market your book, and more at https://www.nasw.org/article/write-book.

Send book info and questions about book publishing to Lynne Lamberg, NASW book editor, llamberg@nasw.org.

April 13, 2016

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines for information on submitting your report.

Publication of NASW author reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of any publication or the ideas, values, or material contained within or espoused by authors or their books. We hope this column stimulates productive discussions on important topics now and in the future as both science and societies progress. We welcome your discussion in the comments section below.

Advertise with NASW