Monday, July 17, 2017

Parenting? Roll a Dice

The Problem

I have five children between the ages of 13 and 3.  Everywhere we go, there's a scarce resource that all the kids want.  Maybe it's an elevator button that everyone wants to push.  Maybe it's a favorite spot in the car where everyone wants to sit.  On the flip side, there are chores that nobody wants to do: take out the trash, load the dishwasher, etc.  I used to make assignments round-robin, trying to give each kid a turn at fun and chores.  I've tried other scheduling algorithms too, but I inevitably forget whose turn it is and then everyone tries to straighten me out: "But it was Gideon's turn last time. No, that was Haven not me. ..."

I've tried for years to convince them that these things don't matter and that life is not fair.  I'm apparently poor at communicating that message.  So I decided to take my own sermon to heart:

My Solution

If it really doesn't matter, why not pick kids at random?  I installed Random Name Picker on my phone.  I created a list named Children and added each child's name to that list.  In the list settings, I chose "With replacement" and set "# of names chosen" to 5.  When I click Choose, the app shuffles all the children into a random order.  Now that little Choose button resolves all trivial, family disputes.  We've been doing this for months and it works great.

Only space for one kid to help Dad at the store? Click Choose and the top name wins.  Choosing 2 ice cream flavors at the store? Click Choose and the top two names win.  On vacation? Click Choose in the morning and read everyone the full list to assign priority for pushing elevator buttons that day.  Assigning all children a random priority has proven especially helpful.  Each kid remembers their place in line.  No matter which subset of children happens to travel in the elevator at any given time, they instantly know whose turn it is to push the buttons.

One extra rule proved useful: Dad always clicks Choose.  Otherwise, things get meta really fast: "I get to click Choose to see who gets to click Choose to see who gets to pick the ice cream"


Scott Robertson said...

WOW. When you determine the issue warrants more than a dice role how do the kids respond then?

JJ Hendricks said...

I really like this idea. We run into the same issue with our kids. I might steal this parenting idea and see how it works for us.

Michael Hendricks said...

They do well when the dice aren't applicable. They understand that the dice are just a convention for reducing overhead on trivial decisions. For serious matters, we discuss as a family and come to a conclusion. For some decisions, we use and run a Schulze election. They enjoy that game too.

Jeffrey Daniel Rollin said...

Even chimps understand the concept of unfairness. There's certainly a lot to be said for not shielding kids (particularly older kids) from all the crap that goes on - pets die, kids get cancer, people start wars, Dad gets cancer three times and the third time kills him (happened to mine, and I wasn't any happier about it at 35 than I would have been at 14), but that's a different level of crapitude than, say, giving Child 2 three lumps of ice cream and Child 1 and Child 2 only one each. That said, I really don't think it matters if Billy gets food first one time, George the next, and then the third time it's Billy again when it should have been Holly, especially not if it's inadvertent.