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Machiavelli for Moms: Maxims on the Effective Governance of Children* Hardcover – April 9, 2013
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"Suzanne Evans humorously adapts the Renaissance political philosopher's sometimes ruthless precepts to running a family." (Notable Books on Parenting, The Tampa Bay Times)
"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?'" (Gifts Mom Will Love to Unwrap, The Sacramento Bee)
About 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.
Top customer reviews
The road to Machiavelli was born of desperation. Faced with raising four children, frequently solo when her husband was away from home on business trips, Evans felt overwhelmed by the kids. She couldn't control their behavior. That's when she happened upon The Prince and starting reading it.
In the process, she discovered a new clarity and perspective. She wondered if Machiavelli had gotten "a bad rap" from some scholars. Perhaps some of his political wisdom could actually be applied to parenting. So she decided to give it a shot.
But...Machiavelli and motherhood? I was definitely skeptical. Even so, I decided to read the book, mainly because I'm interested in differing styles of parenting. Also, I've read the two books noted above. So I added Machiavelli for Moms to my list and pre-ordered it.
Unfortunately, reading the book was a disappointing experience - or maybe it simply lived up to my skeptical forebodings. It was not only a let-down but filled with the kind of common sense advice I'd read in numerous other books: rules and discipline shape a child's actions for the better. Children need clear boundaries. Don't spend too much money on indulging your child's wishes. Praise good behavior.
Sound new? It certainly didn't to me. The most interesting thing in the book for me was a recipe for Machiavelli Macaroni and Cheese (yes, really).
In fairness, near the end of the book Evans writes that her Machiavellian approach might not be enlightening to all parents. She adds that daily decisions should ultimately be determined by what parents find right for their lives - and their children since there is no "one ideal way, no one ultimate set of rules" for raising children. But this is after outlining her approach and maxims in detail.
The book had a few moments which captured my attention - but far too few of them. Snippets of history were mixed with the parenting suggestions. Assuming the history is correct, I learned more about Machiavelli (although applying his political writings to parenting seemed quite a stretch to me).
Evans admits she did find Machiavelli lacking when she faced certain challenges but this admission occurred too far down the line for me. I did like the extensive bibliography included for readers who may want to know more about Machiavelli. And there are plenty of quotes and examples of competing opinions from scholars who've studied Machiavelli's life and writings extensively. These do provide some food for thought.
I was also moved when Evans wrote about the despair, grief, and denial she felt after being told her newborn daughter had Down syndrome. The struggles in raising her daughter are portrayed in detail. In one especially wrenching account, she writes of a visit from two angry police officers after her daughter was found wandering the neighborhood (after a gate is left accidentally unlocked). Left shaken and guilty, she questions her ability to parent her daughter.
Such honesty is unfortunately sandwiched into a book which offers an unconvincing plan designed to help parents "take back your power...and take back your kingdom." But - chapter after chapter - I thought, "So what's new about this advice?" I rarely found anything particularly enlightening.
An example: the third chapter focuses on the dangers of being overly generous with kids and the importance of setting limits. As an example, Evans recalls a visit to Target. Setting limits translated into giving each of her children a ten dollar bill and telling them that's all they were allowed to spend that day. Maybe I'm overly strict or unenlightened but when my kids were little we actually made it through Target without my feeling the necessity to give them ANY money to spend.
As a parent, I understand the chaos, stress and feelings of being overwhelmed that accompany the worst days - as well as (hopefully) the pride and fulfillment of the good ones. But I just couldn't relate to a Machivellian approach to raising children. Ultimately, it all just seemed like the same old information with a new title and package.