Shifting Blame
Written by Elliot Temple
Originally posted on the Taking Children Seriously List, on Mar 6, 2002, at 3:28 PM

(In response to the question of how to figure out a common preference among a 5 person family when choosing a restaurant, and each having a different taste in food, a poster responded that you should "flip a coin." Elliot Temple responds below.)

If you make it random, some people will be happy and some unhappy. This is *not* a Common Preference, in which *everyone* would be happy. If anyone is unhappy, something bad is happening. Finding a way to "fairly" distribute that unhappiness (randomly) does not solve the problem, it simply makes it hard for the kids to blame anyone for their unhappiness. The plan deflects responsibility from the the
parents to a coin. This will only serve to confuse the kids, who know something is wrong, but can hardly blame a coin for their problems,
 and may not see through the ruse and blame their parents.

 Hiding the source of unhappiness seems worse than simply telling the kids "I get my way" in which case everything would be explicit, and
everyone would have an easier time developing correct theories about the situation, such as "my parents are evil." The parents would also
have an easier time, b/c they would realize they are hurting their kids and need to change, rather than using a coin to fool themselves into thinking it's not their fault, in which scenario they might not work to better themselves.

Coin flipping is not a way of *creating knowledge* of how to  change one's preferences about which restaurant to visit. Knowledge creation is how problems gets solved.

 I realize a lot of "little things" like this 4-word idea of tossing a coin may seem innocuous, but that is only b/c they are so firmly entrenched. The idea is far from trivial, and I feel very damaging.

(Read more of Elliot Temple's writing at Fallible Ideas )