You, your husband & your two kids are relaxing in the family room together. Parents are reading the paper and kids are playing quietly. It’s magical. Your husband stirs, asking if you’d like anything from the kitchen as he gets up. That’s when he notices that your daughter’s coat is laying on the floor…someplace it surely doesn’t belong. And thus, the conversation begins:

Dad: Sweetheart, can you please hang up your coat?

Your daughter doesn’t answer. Just keeps playing. Your husband returns from the kitchen with your iced tea.

Dad: I see someone’s coat is still on the floor.

At this, your daughter gets up and comes over to you with a book.

Daughter: Mom, will you read this to me please?

Mom: What nice manners! Of course I will honey.

Hmm…Anything wrong with this picture? Mom & Dad don’t seem to be on the same team. If one parent asks a kid to do something and the other parent ignores the request, then why should a child listen to that other parent?

There are many great aspects to having two parents in a family.

  1. Shared responsibility. There’s someone to watch the kids if you need to go to the store.
  2. Sanity factor: Are these kids crazy or is it me? Oh, you think it’s them too? Great!
  3. Back-up. If you’re on the same page, it should be harder for kids to argue against 2 parents than just one.

If you fail to be on the same page though, then having 2 parents can go from being an asset to being a detriment. In the above scenario, Mom undercut Dad’s authority by allowing her daughter to a) ignore the request and b) get positive parental attention without having to do as she was asked. When Dad asks something, then Mom, as the natural partner and teammate of Dad, should be as fixed on getting the goal accomplished as he is.

This does not mean that Mom has to step in as soon as Dad has made a request. Try not to take over the ownership of the request since that undermines authority as well. But if your child ignores the request and comes to you about something unrelated, then redirect her to her father or to what he asked her to do.

Daughter: Mom, will you read this to me please?

Mom: I’m pretty sure that your dad asked you to do something. Once you’re finished, we can read.

If you disagree with something that your spouse has asked (or commanded!), then try your best not to discuss it in the moment. Talk to your adult away from the eyes and ears of your children. Discuss different ways that the situation could have been handled.

‘Supporting your spouse’ can be a catchphrase that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t put support into practice. So, if you see an opportunity to stand by your man or your woman, do it with gusto! You might need their back-up the next time you’d like someone’s coat to be off of the floor.