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Do You Pit Your Kids Against Eachother to Drive Competition?

Posted by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 12:00 PM
  • 13 Replies

Twisted 'Machiavelli Mom' Pits Her Kids Against Each Other

by Jeanne Sager

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?

by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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Replies (1-10):
by Michelle on Apr. 10, 2013 at 12:17 PM

I think it's awful that she would shame him. I only have my dd.

by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 12:18 PM
I agree to a degree with it, but that's too far.
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by Jennifer on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:01 PM

That's awful. I only have my daughter.

by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 2:14 PM

My husband and his younger brother were constantly pitted against each other by their mother. She would compare his younger brother to him in every category and tell them who was better. It destroyed their relationship with each other and with their mother. Only terrible, lazy, mean-spirited parents would do this to their kids.

by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 3:13 PM

I would never do that to my children. Each child is different and should be treated good no matter what!

by on Apr. 10, 2013 at 8:04 PM

No. I wouldn't do that.

by Sarah on Apr. 10, 2013 at 8:20 PM

No way... 

by Platinum Member on Apr. 11, 2013 at 9:01 AM

 No, not really....they have their own fusses and fights enough already...for me I believe it would make things much worse.

by on Apr. 11, 2013 at 10:43 AM

My mother did this with my brother and I and we now have nothing to do with eachother.  

by on Apr. 11, 2013 at 12:31 PM
No, at least not on purpose.
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