Relationship Connection: Our ‘good cop bad cop’ parenting is polarizing our kids


I feel like my husband and I are the “good cop” and “bad cop” with our children. He came from a family where children were expected to obey no matter what and I came from a family that was more kind and respectful of individual needs. Our kids pretty much come to me for everything because their dad will always say “no.” He feels like I give in to them and is only involved when I need him to discipline a kid. He wishes I would be stricter with the kids and I wish he would be more fair and kind to them. Can you share any ideas on how to get out of this situation?


I agree you both need to get on the same page with your parenting approach so your kids aren’t caught in the middle. The biggest problem, however, is that both of your styles are pushing the other further away from each other. This split undermines your children’s relationships with each of you and creates insecurity in the foundation of the family.

Both of your styles clearly have merit. Your husband’s upbringing and your upbringing have strengths and weaknesses. To assume that one’s family was perfect while the other wasn’t perfect isn’t helpful when trying to develop a parenting strategy for your family.

Instead, pick a time to sit down with your husband and talk about how important it is for you to be on the same page with him. Each of you needs a chance to talk about why you do what you do with your children. Listen carefully for the strengths in the approach and how it can help your children.

My guess is that your husband has some great ideas that can influence the way you parent your children. He probably notices things you don’t noIsIstice. The same goes for you as well. You notice things he doesn’t notice and can inform his parenting style. The goal isn’t to turn the other person into a copy of you. The goal is to blend your styles into a unified way of interacting with your children.

If your children know that you respect each other’s strengths, they will respond better to each of you. If they sense your frustration with your husband’s style, they will split and choose sides, which isn’t good for anyone.

Of course, if you and your husband can’t even begin this conversation with each other, seek out a qualified marriage counselor who can help you work through this conversation so you can be on the same page with each other. Sometimes the stakes feel so high and the issues so personal when it comes to parenting and family life that it can be difficult to navigate the conversation.

Let him know you want him involved and you value the strengths he brings to the family, even if his execution is rough and needs some work. As you both become less polarized, everyone will benefit and you’ll both improve your relationships with your children.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @geoffsteurer


Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • Spoiled Brats January 8, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I think 99.99% of St George kids are self-centered spoiled brats who act as if they are entitled to everything they want. They expect to be waited on, served, gifted and are disrespectful, rude and non-appreciative. Don’t know who is worse in spoiling them, the mother or father. Word of advice to any childless single person dating a St George parent, RUN! You will become a checkbook, paying for someone else’s brat who will show you no respect, no appreciation and offer no help with anything. I think the problem of self-centered spoiled brats stems from these St George kids thinking they must get married and have babies right out of high school without first becoming responsible adults. After the divorce, they then look for someone to pay for them or cook and clean for them, not parent them.

    • Brian January 8, 2014 at 11:22 am

      I’m not sure where your jaded view comes from, but you’re welcome to come spend some time with my youth group (about 30 young men between 12 and 18). It won’t take long for you to appreciate their good qualities, and how remarkable they are considering the age they are growing up in.

      And yes, sometimes they will still frustrate the heck out of you and you’ll want nothing more than to kick their butts (which admittedly would do them a lot of good!), but that doesn’t change the fact they are amazing young men.

      Unfortunately they are growing up in “perilous times” and face an uphill battle, but I think they are equal to it, if they make good choices.

  • ladybugavenger January 8, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I agree with you, however, Kids are like that everywhere. My kids included, that’s why they ran from me. Their grandparents would spoil them rotten, it would piss me off because that’s not how I wanted my kids raised. Don’t be that kind of grandparent please. Now, the teenagers went to go see what they can get from other people. Because, I can only assume they feel, “I’m mean” I don’t put up with their nonsense. You can’t fix stupid!

    • Spoiled Brats January 8, 2014 at 10:09 am

      “It’s like that everywhere…” is the most cop-out comment I hear in St George. “Ohhhh…. it’s like that everywhere…” No it’s not like that everywhere. What these people mean when they use that comment is “Ohhhh… I am like that everywhere, anywhere I go….” Quit using the cop-out comment to enable your lazy and enabling ways. Aside from tired of hearing that St George “It’s like that everywhere…” cop-out comment, are the comments of how everywhere else has gangs and drugs. Guess what. St George has a very drug problem and a gang element. Open your eyes! BTW, if you really want your spoiled brats to respect you, then get tough with them instead of allowing them to walk all over you. One comment I hear out of the mouths of these spoiled brats is “My mom (or dad) lets me do anything I want!” or “My mom (or dad) gives me everything I want!” I hear these comments EVERYWHERE in St George. The comments coming out of the spoiled brats mouths in regards to step parents are less than flattering.

      • Brian January 8, 2014 at 11:31 am

        Sadly, I agree with you on one point: one of the biggest obstacles today’s youth face is their own parents (and in particular their parents prosperity and financial success). The hardest thing about trying to be a good parent in southern Utah (and yes, just about anywhere) is your kids friends and your kids friends parents. We let our kids watch very little TV, and very little of it is recent. We’re constantly mortified by what neighbors let their 10 year old daughters watch! Kids today are being fed a constant stream of vulgar, violent, pointless, practically erotic filth and we wonder why we have problems with relationships, teen pregnancy, drugs, murder, school shootings, suicides, etc, etc, etc.

        • Spoiled Brats January 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm

          Not just friends and friends’ parents, but relatives, too. Entitled brats in St George have relatives who don’t support the parents in instilling any manners or discipline. If the parent doesn’t allow the entitled brat to get everything all the time, then the brat knows which relative to milk for sympathy. Too often divorced parents are competing with each other for the brats’ attention. Not only do the St George brats play the divorced parents to get everything all the time, they also play the relatives against the parents and against other relatives. Then the entitled brats see their entitled brat friends getting everything the whine for, and they think they should have equal entitlement.

      • ladybugavenger January 8, 2014 at 6:17 pm

        I raised my kids in california, punk … there too. My kids weren’t raised here. Jeez, I was agreeing and expanding the location jeez. Yeah, my parents turned against me becuz the spoiled brats jeeeez
        Ed. ellipsis

      • ladybugavenger January 8, 2014 at 6:19 pm

        Back off !!!! I wasnt the enabler.

  • Boys will be boys January 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

    What happened to those Santa Clara boys who kidnapped, assaulted and threatened that young girl for several hours before she escaped? Last I heard was the boys had everyone including the church supporting them and not the victim. This is an example of parents and a community allowing a criminal behavior with their kids.

  • Sgnative January 8, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    I wish more parents were like mine were. Tough when it came to teaching morals and respect and sticking to them consistently and also letting us make our own choices. It really comes down to you get out of your kids what you put into them. If you want good respectful kids you have to show them by example. Kids who are entitled and have bad habits and friends learn from what they see and are around. Parents need to quit the cycles of watching filth and getting everything they want even if they can’t afford it and having flippant attitudes about the world we live in and perhaps the next generation can be greater the majority of adults in our society.

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