Twisted 'Machiavelli Mom' Pits Her Kids Against Each Other

Rant 21

gradeYou know, I was all ready to get on board with the Machiavelli Mom. Trying to blend a family of kids and stepkids after a marriage, Suzanne Evans decided she needed some out-of-the-box thinking. So she turned to Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince for ideas. She was doing fine until she decided to apply the scheming Italian politician's divide and conquer theory to parenting ... and then things went off the rails.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal meant to promote her new parenting book, the Machiavelli Mom admitted she pitted at least two of her kids against each other in a competition over who could fare better in school.

Daughter Teddy brought home a "nearly perfect" second-grade report card and was rewarded with a celebratory family dinner at the restaurant of her choice. Stepson Daniel, on the other hand, came home with some lackluster grades, and here's how Evans dealt with it:

[He] got nothing, other than the shame of losing the competition—to his younger sister no less, as I reminded him.

Ah yes, nothing like making a kid feel like he's not as good as his sibling and shaming him over poor grades to breed contempt.

Evans insists the trick worked; Daniel's next report card showed improvement. But what she doesn't address is how her divide and conquer theory affected the kids' psyches and relationship.

The danger of this kind of comparison between two kids' grades is two-fold. You set the kids against each other, which is hardly the notion of what a family is all about. Siblings are supposed to support each other. Second, you signal that YOU, the parent, who is supposed to have each child's back, thinks differently about them. When one kid is labeled as the "bad" kid or the "dumb" kid, it could drive competition ... or it could just as easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Parents need to realize that two siblings are not the same kid. Each has their own strengths and their own weaknesses. Expecting them to be the same kid isn't fair to either.

On the other hand, treating your kids as individuals has been shown to reduce sibling rivalry and result in overall better self-esteem for each child.

Maybe the Machiavelli Mom would have less struggles blending a new family if she put down the book and tried looking to some real parenting experts for advice. 

Do you pit your kids against each other to drive competition? How has it worked out for you?


Image by Jeanne Sager

education, family


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Irela... Ireland69

That's terrible! They end up hating each other.  Everybody is different. how would she like it if they treated her like that??!! You love your kids the same way you don't compare them to one another.

nonmember avatar Lilac

Wow really? Does she maybe think her stepson had less then stellar grades because he now had many siblings he didn't have before (Including a special needs child, not mentioned in this but in the other article) And instead of referring to him as son its step son. She makes a clear distinction that he is not part of "her" family. Her husband must have no balls at all to allow his child to be humiliated.

tinyp... tinypossum

She might want to check the success of her methods. From the picture, that family doesn't look too happy. 

Eddie... EddiesMama83

What she did wasn't all that bad. Good grief, parents can't even encourage their kids to get better grades!

Desti... DestineyBGP

Sorry Billy, Your picture did not make it to the fridge this week. Better luck next week!

tntmo... tntmom1027

How about the part where she says it's ok to lie to your kid if it makes you happy, tell them you are going on a business trip so you can get out of a weekend of sports etc. 

"In other words: 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."

Andrea Myers

No. I think it's great. Don't pamper kids! Come on! Competition is healthly! If he wound up hating her for winning this, then he is a poor sport. Now if she did this all the time and he never won anything, that's another story. But stop making everything FAIR all the time. Geez. I'm with her!

tntmo... tntmom1027

Or telling her husband who wanted another child that if he didn't have a vesectomy he wouldn't get any affection in bed(#1 way to ruin and doom a marriage). 

"My husband resisted this edict at first, but when I told him that until he accepted it he shouldn't expect any affection in bed, he quickly agreed to an appointment with a doctor."

She is a dominaring, non caring person....person had it right before...her husband has no balls and lets her do whatever she wants to the kids, and him.

Davina Belden

Yes, I believe you should treat your kids like crap and lie to them every chance you get. That way when they grow-up and are in prison you can look back at the wonderful job you did, and blame the government!

nonmember avatar Renee

I think it's horrible to have your children compete in something so trivial. I mean come on... look, at the age difference... of course the 2nd grader will have better grades than the older child!... I grew up with 2 younger sisters.. I of course was the rebellious one ... and the middle child was the brains.. and the baby was plain spoiled. I got sick and tired of hearing "Why can't you be more like your sister?" I hated her for years... I'm 26 now.. and my sister and I have only gotten close in the last 2 or 3 years. Your family is there to cherish and have your back, not rub in your face your failure and shortcomings... this mom/author should be ashamed of herself!

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