Side by Side

Q:  My wife and I have two children, ages 12 and 14. Lately, we find we are arguing more and more about our kids. For example, our son will ask me if he can go somewhere or do something and when I say “No,” he’ll go ask his mother and get a “Yes.” As soon as this happens my wife and I start arguing. How do we stop this from happening?

A:  This is a common scenario in a lot of households with children. Kids pick up pretty quickly on the slightest difference between their mom and dad’s parenting approach. It doesn’t take too long for a child to sense which parent tends to say “Yes” more than “No.” Naturally, that’s the parent the child will gravitate toward when he or she wants something.

The track record shows that you and your wife may not initially agree on how to respond to your child’s wish, so from now on, do yourselves and your child a favor by saying to him or her, “That’s an interesting idea. We will talk about that and get back to you.” Make sure you give your child a specific time you will respond back, whether that’s an hour or the next day. 

One of the best gifts you can give your children and your relationship is to use the pronoun, we, generously. Using this tiny, yet powerful word sends a clear signal to your kids that their mom and dad work in tandem. This pronoun also acts as a reminder to you and your wife that you’re not the enemy –you’re on the same team.

Kathy Dawson is a Cleveland Heights author and relationship coach. Send anonymous questions to this column to  To learn more, visit

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 8:50 AM, 04.20.2010