It’s nearly dinner time but your child wants to eat something sweet, like a banana. Just saying ‘no’ may not be very effective. Hiding the bananas in advance may be better, but it’s a tad late for that now. Luckily, there’s a third option.

Writing a child’s name on a banana is like changing its statistics from quantum to classical.

This third option is gleaned from statistical physics, where it matters whether particles are identical or distinguishable. When particles are exactly identical (just like all seedless bananas from a cultivar are identical clones), we get quantum statistics; when particles are distinguishable (think apples and oranges), this yields classical statistics. In short, particle distinguishability has a real impact on how we calculate probabilities.

Just so, it also matters whether our children’s food is distinguishable. If we don’t set aside or otherwise label the piece of food that they want to eat, then in their minds there is a probability that their sibling will snatch it up if they don’t eat it now. How’s that for fear of missing out? However, simply reserving that item of food, e.g. writing their name on that banana, changes the probability in the child’s mind. Now, the chances that their sibling would take the banana if they don’t eat it now are reduced significantly: the banana now clearly is their property. In this way, you can assure your hungry dependent that nobody will take that snack and it’s easier for your child to agree to save it until later. By the way, if you don’t want to write on the food directly, bag it and write on that instead.

And once the snack’s been labelled up and stored away, the child may even forget all about it. That’s what’s happened to certain chocolate in our house anyway.