"At her wits' end with her four uncontrollable children, a mom turns for advice to – of all places – the philosophical wisdom in the 1532 book 'The Prince' by Niccolò Machiavelli. Toward the end of the yearlong 'experiment,' she had to face 'the ultimate Machiavellian question: Is it better to be feared than loved?'"
Machiavelli for Moms: Maxims on the Effective Governance of Children*by Suzanne Evans
Newly remarried, with four kids under the age of eight, Suzanne Evans is fed up with tantrums, misbehaving, and general household chaos. Desperate to get the upper hand, she turns to Machiavelli’s iconic political treatise, The Prince, and inspiration strikes. Maybe, she thinks, I can use his manipulative rules to bring order to my boisterous family.
Soon her experiment begins to play out in surprisingly effective ways. She starts off following Machiavelli’s maxim “It is dangerous to be overly generous” and soon realizes that for all its austerity, there is a kernel of truth in it. Her kids do behave when they are given clear limits. From there, she starts tackling other rules—“Tardiness robs us of opportunity” and “Study the actions of illustrious men”—and she is surprised at how quickly her brood falls in line once she starts adapting his advice to child rearing.
As she tries more and more of Machiavelli’s ideas on her family, Evans figures out this secret: You can get more out of your kids, with less fighting, if you figure out how to gently manipulate them to get what you want (and let them think it’s their own idea). But when events in her life start to spiral out of control and some of her earlier techniques are no longer working, she has to figure out her own answer to the ultimate Machiavellian question: Is it better to be feared than loved?
Do the Ends Justify the Meanness?
Machiavelli for Moms is the story of a rash, even crazy experiment: a year of using Machiavelli’s The Prince to “rule” one disobedient family. As mother-of-four Suzanne Evans soon found out, a little bit of coercion, manipulation, and cunning can go a long way when running a kingdom— and a household. Wouldn’t we all like to have kids who:
• Consistently obey our commands . . . without our having to nag?
• Stop talking back . . . and start getting along with each other?
• Eagerly complete their homework . . . without our having to ask?
• Sleep soundly through the night . . . while we regain our sanity, sex drive, and peace of mind?
In Machiavelli for Moms, Evans offers one woman’s unorthodox solution to the messy, chaotic, and confusing world of modern motherhood. It’s a tale of her own experiment in “power parenting” and a manifesto for other moms willing to act on Machiavelli’s famously manipulative advice.
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Read an Excerpt
Machiavelli for Moms
What if I told you that your children—yes, your children, the ones currently jumping on their beds, slamming doors, tossing fistfuls of cereal on the floor, and bickering, whining, shrieking, fighting, or otherwise trying to kill each other—could be well behaved?
Not just “well behaved,” but really and truly obedient and good.
And not only that—they would enjoy being good. And you would enjoy your time with them, instead of feeling chronically exhausted and enslaved by the impossibly wide array of demands that press in upon you each day as a parent. You know what I’m talking about: those relentless demands on your time, your energy, your finances, your sleep, and your patience, demands on your career, your figure, your friendships, and other important relationships.
What if I told you that there was a new approach, or master plan, that wouldn’t just show you how to empower yourself as a parent, but how to keep that power and use it to help your kids:
• feel more confident and in control of their life . . . and help you feel happier and more relaxed;
• consistently obey your commands . . . without you having to nag;
• appreciate the value of money and hard work . . . and help you save lots of cash;
• master bad habits like back talk and procrastination . . . and help you take action;
• eagerly complete their homework . . . without your having to ask;
• battle boredom with creativity and imagination . . . without your having to entertain them;
• sleep soundly through the night . . . while you regain your sanity, sex drive, and peace of mind.
Most amazingly, what if I promised you that if you use this plan, you will find your own thoughts and feelings about parenting begin to change.
• You will feel more confident, powerful, proactive, and competent.
• You will get more out of your kids with less fight.
• You will stop daydreaming about vacationing alone in Mexico, get your healthy glow back, and might actually put off getting your tubes tied just yet.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom (or dad) or a highly driven career woman, stuck in a rut or searching for a new perspective, this plan will inspire you to take back your power . . . and take back your kingdom.
I thought it was a fairy tale, too. Until I tried the concepts outlined here, which I stumbled across more or less by accident in a five-hundred-year-old tome. I discovered these ideas in a moment of crisis. On the surface, it might have looked like I had everything a mom could want. My kids were healthy. My husband was hardworking, loving, and fun. We lived in a nice home in a neighborhood that I loved. I even had the most coveted and highly prized parental commodity of all: a reliable babysitter.
But . . . no one (except my babysitter) was behaving—not even my cat, who had suddenly developed a strong aversion to kitty litter. My house wasn’t just a disaster; it was a battle zone, so much so that if city commissioners had dropped by for a surprise visit they would’ve had to clean it before they condemned it. And as much as I really do cherish and love my children, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and out of shape, and I had worn the same tattered old expandable-waist post-pregnancy sweatpants every day since my last set of contractions kicked in.
So it was at a very low point in my life that I stumbled across a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince. And reading it literally changed my life. Sounds strange, right? But his advice gave me the clarity to see my relationship with my kids in a dynamic new light. Instead of abdicating my power as a parent, I reclaimed it. Instead of struggling each day just to survive, I took command of my life. Instead of begging my kids to be courteous, polite, respectful, and kind; quickly fall into line; and stop drawing on our walls with my Pretty Please MAC lipstick, I insisted on it. And as I continued reading, I felt myself undergo a transformation from a totally beleaguered and defeated modern-day mom to a more peaceful, calm, and enlightened one.
It didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen without some serious bumps along the way (as you’ll see). I ended up taking a lot of Machiavelli’s advice to heart, leaving a little bit on the table, and interpreting other parts rather broadly. But while I started this experiment in a somewhat tentative and haphazard way, I really did find kernels of truth in The Prince that helped me to be a better parent. I hope you will, too.
But instead of asking you to read Machiavelli’s iconic book yourself (though I totally recommend it—seriously, it’s a great read), I will do you one better: I will show you how to use his rules to raise a happier, better-behaved family. Really. I wouldn’t kid you about something as serious as this. And because this approach worked well for me, I encourage you to try to it, too. But if you do, remember this piece of advice: don’t be afraid of your power as a parent. Embrace it—then use it wisely, consistently, and, above all, lovingly.
Meet the Author
Suzanne Evans is a former divorce lawyer and business/sports reporter who holds a PhD in history from UC Berkeley. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Business Journal, and other national publications. She is also a freelance writer for The History Channel website and the creator of The History Chef, a popular food history blog (LincolnsLunch.blogspot.com). She lives in Newport Beach, California, with her husband and four young children.
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Good advice i bet you could apply some of this advice in the work place.