New “Machiavelli for Moms” Book Explains How to Control Your Kids
I like reading the Wall Street Journal during the week; it lets me imagine I’m one of the one percent and own stocks and bonds and buy real estate in Mustique and think Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. But I really should not read it on weekends, because that’s when the Saturday Essay appears. I wrote a few weeks ago about a Saturday Essay in which the author advised running your family like a business. This past Saturday, a woman named Suzanne Evans wrote about how wonderful her home life has been ever since she turned to Machiavelli for advice.
I’m not making this up.
How, you might ask, would words of wisdom from a notoriously cold and heartless 16th-century Italian courtier help a 21st-century stay-at-home working mother? Well, Suzanne is here to tell you. Her household—a blended one, with kids from her and her husband’s previous marriages, plus two they’ve had together—was chaotic because she was being too nice, too kindly. So she took The Prince down from her bookshelf. “Machiavelli’s name is synonymous with duplicity, deceit and the cunning, ruthless use of power,” she writes. Those aren’t normally qualities one associates with parenting. But! But! “The more I read,” Suzanne says, “the more excited I became.” Do you know why? Because she smells a book deal! Sure enough, tomorrow is the pub date for Machiavelli for Moms: Maxims on the Effective Governance of Children, which is just the sort of dumb crap parents buy and read in hopes of guaranteeing that their offspring get into Princeton or Penn.
So, what are Machiavelli’s parenting prescripts? Don’t be afraid to lie to your kids, advises Evans, using as an example a golfing trip she and her husband went on, telling the kids it was a business trip. Her takeaway: “Don’t feel guilty for lying to your kids if it makes you happy and relaxed … because having a happy, relaxed mom always benefits a child.” By this same logic, don’t feel guilty for having six martinis every night; you’ll be so happy and relaxed that your kid might even get into Yale!
Having trouble with your kids when you have to take them shopping at Target? Lay down the law the way Suzanne does now that she’s following her Italian master:
“Usually, on such outings, they would greedily toss DVDs and dolls into our cart. If I insisted that they remove the booty, temper tantrums would ensue. This time I had a plan. Instead of waiting for disaster, I stopped at the entrance and handed each of them $10.”
Um, Suzanne? My kids would have thought they’d died and gone to heaven if I’d given them $10 apiece every time I had to run out for dish soap. That isn’t discipline; it’s a flat-out bribe.
Next up: “Divide the forces of the enemy.” For Evans, this translates into pitting her stepson against her (younger) daughter in a battle over school grades. When the daughter gets a near-perfect second-grade report card, she gets praised lavishly and taken out for a family dinner at the restaurant of her choice. The poor stepson, whose report card is inferior, is shamed by Mom for his performance as compared to Little Sis. This defeat, Evans proudly declares, “ignited his competitive spirit”: His next report card is an improvement. Mom doesn’t mention it, but I hope, in the spirit of Machiavelli, that she warned Little Sis to watch her freaking back.
Evans also applies the principles of the Prince—or lack thereof—to her wayward daughter Katie, who has Down’s syndrome. She spanks the five-year-old for disobedience, but this proves unsatisfactory: Katie “didn’t let out so much as a whimper or whine, much less a cry.” Hell, where’s the fun in that?
To cap off her adventures in family joy, Evans withholds sex from her husband when he proposes adding yet another youngster to their happy clan. In fact, she withholds it until he makes an appointment with his doctor for a vasectomy. She insists that this, like all the rest of Machiavelli’s rules for getting what you want, is neither “scheming” nor “manipulative”: “It is all about maintaining power and laying down the law with a firm hand.” I really don’t have much to add to what one of the commenters on the article had to say: “Suzanne, you’re a sociopath.”
Still, the book’s being published by Simon and Schuster. Hurry on over to Amazon and get your copy now. As for me, I’m toying with a couple of ideas myself. What sounds best to you: Kim Jong Un’s Guidebook to a Happy Home Life? Baby and Papa: Jean-Claude Duvalier’s Childcare Manual? Kony and Kids? So many books to write; so little time.