The little strategist

“Parents trying to elicit good behavior from children must become amateur strategists (the children are the pros).”

(DIXIT, Avinash K. & NALEBUFF, Barry J. “Thinking strategically”.)

The phrase above is in the preface of a technical book about Game Theory, which intends to teach the principles of strategy reasoning. The authors are wise when they are able to find, in children, the reasoning that we end losing and having to re-learn after being adults. Mainly when we become parents.

One day I went back home and received from my husband a so-so “good evening”. I soon asked what was going on, and he said to me, annoyed:

“I bought a new videogame. I spent a lot of time choosing. I was sure it would be a complete success among the kids, until I inserted the disc inside the device. Only 15 minutes past, and they were already screaming and fighting in the room. I didn’t preach, I didn’t do anything: I just turned off the device and prohibited them from playing for one week.”

In the blink of an eye, I mapped the “atmosphere” which had been installed. The sadness of a father who brings a present hoping for union and seeing the opposite. Adding to my delusion of… Gee, why can’t they play nice? In the room, the little three all blue. The oldest one, writing in a notebook, a kind of diary, feeling so wronged. The fight had begun because he was – under the pretext of teaching the youngest brother how to play – taking off the controller from his hand all the time; the youngest didn’t want to accept “interferences” and then TOOF!! beat the controller on his brother’s head. My daughter was even more frustrated, because she hadn’t taken part in the confusion and was being like so. And the youngest was letting the tears drop with no sound.

My husband said again:

“I didn’t do anything. I just turned off the game.”

This kind of silent action from the parents weighs more than a scolding, you know? It’s when the children realize that they provoked something more serious. I tried to pacify and also give to Caesar what was Caesar’s. With the father’s “OK”, I released the girl from the prohibition for one week. I praised the oldest boy because he just wanted to help, but also asked for patience. To the youngest son, I said that nothing could justify hurting anybody, much less if the person was his brother, even worse because he was trying to teach him. I saw he regretted it, but I couldn’t leave it be, even for the sake of justice.

Later, I saw that he was still shedding tears and, that time, he was dedicating himself to make a drawing (since he didn’t know how to write).

See the drawing:

crying stick figure

When I saw it, I couldn’t resist; I squeezed him in my arms and covered him with kisses. I covered all three with kisses. I asked the little boy to apologize to both his brother and sister, and his father too, what he did with a wet face, and also promised that it wouldn’t happen again (uh-huh).

Then, he brought me another drawing:

smiling stick figure

Comparing the two drawings, it’s possible to notice the spirit of each one; the first of them made in brown crayon, sad, and the second in orange, happy.

Some days later, the girl was playing in the computer, and the little boy began to annoy her, wanting to play too.

Aaaaaaah, the usual confusion…

“Spending my beauty” and all of the daily artifices, typical of a career in Law, to be a judge, a juror, a lawyer and a conciliator, I said to him he wasn’t right and must wait until she left.

It didn’t take 15 seconds, and the boy came to me with one more drawing of a crying-stick-figure. But, that time, it didn’t correspond to the funny and smart smile of who had drawn…

Three years old. Professional strategist.

_______________

You can also see:

The tooth fairy

School lunch

Are your kids as mine?

This post in Portuguese: O pequeno estrategista

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