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WSJ Essay: How Machiavelli Saved My Family

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by ilovepaydays, Apr 6, 2013.

  1. ilovepaydays

    ilovepaydays Well-Known Member

    WSJ's Saturday Essay: How Machiavelli Saved My Family

    Well, this was certainly an interesting read. I liked the idea of how she and her husband got away from the kids for the weekend and I can see (in context) how the "time out" with the Down Syndrome child could be a good idea. And I understand the need "to take control" in the home.

    I'm curious if people here think the $10 bill idea would work with kids who DEMAND that they get something when they go to Target, Walmart, etc.

    But some of the other examples, I'm not so sure about the long term results or what would happen in the next case she tries a Machiavellian idea. Turning the kids (who are step-siblings) against each other (and the shaming!) for good grades? Withholding sex until her husband got a vasectomy with he said that he wanted another child?

    I would love to see this family 10 years later. Could this be an effective way to run a household or could there be some issues here?
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  2. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    A little competition is a healthy thing. She wasn't punishing the child who lost, just rewarding the one who won. It's better than teaching them they get rewarded for trying, which is how you end up with lazy entitled brats outside the home.

    As for telling the husband no more kids, sounds reasonable to me. Birth control that's effective is hormonal and carries risks for her and a vasectomy's more invasive than a tubal. SHE'S the one who'd have to get pregnant, not to mention it sounds like they have a small herd of children already.

    (And I suspect as the article is slightly cheeky all the scenarios with the husband involved a little more discussion.)
  3. ilovepaydays

    ilovepaydays Well-Known Member

    PLUS - they already have one Down Syndrome child and you can tell from the picture that she is at least in her early-mid forties.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  4. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    The Prince and How to win friends and Influence People are two of the most useful books ever written. I say Bravo. Using techniques from the two has worked wonders in my case. That, and the Be the Alligator mantra.

    There will always be issues, but I wager the issues of disciplined children outweigh the issues of those who are not disciplined. You can take the Machivelli techniques too far if one's personality is very domineering, but as long as you incorporate the Carnegie technique of getting the result you want consultatively, it's an excellent strategy to live by.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  5. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    Forgive me as I'm not a parent, but all of this seems like normal good parenting to me ... give your kids an allowance to spend, reward them for good grades, punish bad behavior with time outs ... all stuff my parents did. Our weekly allowance was the number of our grade (5th grade = $5) and could be increased by doing chores. I spent one summer saving my allowance in a taped-off tissue box for a $129 Discman. We got $1 for each E/Excellent (the top grade in elementary school) on our report cards, the lazyboy was the naughty chair when we were bad. Of course we were mischievous at the grocery store and tried to sneak in a new lip balm or something, but my dad would always just take it off when we weren't paying attention, and we wouldn't notice until we got home :lol: I mean ... common sense stuff, eys?

    It seems like she stumbled on a clever gimmick and is just writing another parenting 101 book.
  6. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    I am a parent and think :blah: Do people really need a(nother) book like this?

    Handing your kids $10 at the door every time they go to Target? Pitting kids in the family against each other in competition? :blah: She had to read a book to think of putting a kid in a room for a timeout--and to do so consistently? She had to lie just to go away for the weekend with her husband?

    If that has saved her family, I'd hate to see the kinds of things she was doing before (although from the description, I get a pretty good idea, and even more :blah:)
  7. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    Giving kids $10 at the door and telling them that's all they get is better than letting them ask/demand (heck, if it kept one Justin Bieber backpack on the shelf....)
  8. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Like, duh! It took reading The Prince to arrive at these conclusions, obvious to the most casual observer, as one college professor liked to say?

    The Prince is a classic work and an influential part of the Western (and occasionally, non-Western) culture. Why does she act like she had just discovered it?
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  9. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    Fortunately for us all, we are not limited to just those two choices, although I would rather they ask than just hand them $10 every time so I don't have to deal with the hassle of saying no. Way to be a hardass there, Mom.

    My kids never bugged me in stores and certainly didn't demand anything. That's because they never expected me to get them anything unless we had gone to the store expressly to get something for them. They sometimes asked for things; they sometimes got what they asked for. They usually didn't. And that was that--no whining, no begging, no insisting, no tantrums.

    Amazingly enough, I was the same way when I was a kid! It must be genetic.

    Thank you. Seriously, how much of a doormat was this woman? Every parent knows that weekends are for kids? No wonder she needed a book to help her out of her mess.
  10. shan

    shan Well-Known Member

    The handing over $10 at the door to the store made me wonder how much they were spending before.
  11. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

    this. And considering how many times I went to the grocery store or target in a month, I would have needed a third job just to give them this. The answer is no, not $10 per visit
  12. TheGirlCanSkate

    TheGirlCanSkate Well-Known Member

    Like all moms, I was struggling to meet their every material need.
    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. ...they learned the value of money.

    How can she compare "materials needs" with dvd's and dolls? How is handing someone $10 as they walk into a store teaching the value of money?

    A pat on the behind? Is she serious? She can't even tell the truth to herself. A pat won't cause a grimace. A pat is affectionate. A slap on the butt is not a pat, it's a spank. People are allowed to spank their kids, why can't she just say it?

    And the vasectomy order? Bizarre. Why wait until they are in bed before discussing it? Why withhold affection? There are lots of ways to be "affectionate" without hormones.
  13. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    My mom likes to tell a story of when I was a kid. I started tantruming really bad in a store because I wanted something. She simply dropped everything and left, and obviously I didn't get a chance to put up an argument about the item I wanted. I never tantrumed again. :p

    I thought that's what many parents did to get their kids to behave, but I guess it isn't as common anymore since we feel we don't have enough time to go to the store again? But I have seen some very well-behaved children out shopping. It's just that you remember the brats much more readily. :p
  14. mrr50

    mrr50 Well-Known Member

    My kids are grown and gone and doing well in the real world. I can't imagine doing the $10 bit, I just said no. I didn't have to say it very often.
  15. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    I can think of one thing my sister did that involved lying to her kid. He didn't want to be weaned when he was 2, so she put bandaids over her nipples and told him they were hurt and there was no more milk, and he was old enough to accept that and even be a little sympathetic.
  16. Spareoom

    Spareoom Well-Known Member

    I guess it just kind of stuns me that kids EXPECT treats when out at the store, whether it's a .79cent candy or a ten dollar toy. When I was a kid, my parent's money was THEIR'S...not mine, and they did not buy me things when we went to the store. I didn't even get an allowance so anything I wanted to buy had to be earned through extra chores or whatnot. Expectations regarding behavior at stores was very clear from the get-go and I can't even imagine a scenario in which any of us kids would have thrown a tantrum for a toy or candy because the idea that mom would ACTUALLY buy it for us or that we were "owed" something never crossed my mind! If we felt like we needed something, we asked for it...sometimes we got it; more often we didn't. And yes, we all knew that mom had no problem whatsoever with leaving the store or disciplining us right there if we caused trouble. Pretty quickly we figured out that the embarrassment of getting spanked in the store bathroom didn't make the fuss and trouble worth it whatsoever. ;)

    I think a lot of parents want to be the fun, easy-going parent who isn't a real meanie about getting their kids fun treats when out, but there is absolutely NO NEED to set the expectation that your kid is owed ANYTHING from you. They're not. As long as you make shopping treats just that; a treat, you'll find that your kids are actually more grateful for what you DO give them instead of just taking it for granted or worse, expecting more.

    But yeah, I can't even imagine a scenario where my mom bought me a tiny candy every time we went to the store, let alone handed me ten dollars and told me to go to town, lol. The idea is just insane.
  17. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    $10 is really quite a lot of money, $40 for one outing, even if you're only going to the store once a week! I was given a "gold" coin $A1 or $2 from my grandpa every time I visited (once or twice a month) and thought I was in Heaven - I saved those babies up until I had a tonne of "gold" and then I bought a Care Bear. I don't think this lady is teaching her kids value for money at all. Like Anita18's mum, if any of us (3 kids, consecutive ages) had a tantrum, my mum would drop everything and leave. It didn't happen often. My sister (who is blind) spent a short amount of time in a holding cell at the local police station because she stole from Target - more than once - (my mum's friend is a cop) and man, we never did anything naughty again after that!

    We were smacked, had time outs (in the corner with our hands on our heads, our rooms had toys in them, and we wouldn't care if we were sent there), had to either miss dinner or eat it cold the next morning if we didn't want to eat what was served, were given allowances, but had to earn it and could lose it. We had family meetings and were all quite actively involved in the household - we were taught independence and responsibility, made our our lunches and breakfasts early on, and had to cook dinner for the family once a week.

    I think lying for the reason she did shows her kids don't pay attention to her motherly authority; I think a lot of her problems stem from that. You shouldn't need to give a kid money at the store, they ask for something, you say no. They have a tantrum, they get in trouble or you leave. She should have been honest about the trip away and if the kids asked if they could come, duh, she says no. End of story. I've never heard of this book, but it obviously doesn't think very highly of men, "all men are dishonest", "fickle, hypocritical, greedy and deceitful"? Sounds like there's major issues there that have nothing to do with parenting.
  18. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    It's not targeting men as a sex, but generally the human race as a whole. Replace men with people. BTW, the book was written in the 1500's, so the wording will not be what is viewed as politically correct.

    I don't have a problem with how the Mother is using it, but had her kids learned from jump that parents are in charge, she would not need to employ these tactics until they became rebellious teens or tweens. At least she knows her brats aren't special snowflakes unlike a large portion of today's parents, and is taking steps to correct their bratty behavior.
  19. my little pony

    my little pony war crawling into canada

    The Prince is awesome. If I ever conquer a kingdom, I will know just what to do.
  20. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    She would not need to employ these methods ever. She doesn't need to employ them now.

    Well, she's taking steps. But it doesn't seem to me like she will correct their bratty behavior. Change it, maybe, but correct it? I don't think I am the only person who thinks that handing your kids $10 at the store or pitting two step-siblings against one another in a competition or lying about something as simple as going away for a weekend isn't corrective. To me, you are simply creating a different set of problems.
  21. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

    One thing she doesn't mention is the other parents involved (2 children from previous marriages) and whether they all lived together before their marriage (2 of the kids are theirs, but they are newly married). Perhaps this is the reason for all chaos in her family. The children are quite young and have not been, and possibly are not currently being treated consistently by the adults. Perhaps she needed a book to reinforce what she already instinctively knew.