The Pick-a-Pushover-Parent Plot


When I was in my early teens, I joined my first club; the Columbia Record Club. How could any kid resist their offer, a gazillion records for a buck? And each month for the next three years they’d send another long-play hi-fidelity album to evaluate risk-free. Wow! I was in heaven. As a teen, I was a man of certain means. I had the offer. I had ingenuity. And I had a buck.

records2I could hardly wait for the day I’d be spinning new tunes. Allowing “4-6 weeks for delivery” seemed like a death sentence. At last, the hefty package arrived. The buck was spent, the offer arrived, now was the time for ingenuity. I had no stereo.

No worries. For this occasion, mom was my push-over of choice. Because she loved music (coming from a long line of musicians), she was sure to be receptive to my dilemma. How could she let such a robust collection of music just sit and collect dust? Amazingly, despite my dad’s objections, or maybe because of them, she parted with $350 to buy me a new stereo. That was too easy. It was probably the best return on a dollar investment I’ve ever made. I knew not to push it, however. It was best to wait awhile before approaching her with the opportunity to buy out the remaining 3-year obligation on my Club membership.

My youthful conniving taught me one thing – how to be on the lookout for it with my own children. They are as keenly aware, as I was then, of how to read the receptivity of their parents to their desires. For instance, if they want a movie, or junk food, or entertainment, they know Dad’s more likely to give them the nod, without asking first if chores are done. If they want friends to come and sleep over, they approach Mom instead.

The trick, of course, comes after a parent answers “no” to a request. As parents we’ve agreed that if either of us says “no,” it’s “no.” And the rule of law in our home is that children obey both parents. There’s no going from one parent to the other hoping for a reversal. That means Anna and I have to be on our toes, regularly communicating about what’s going on. It also means that we share equally in “dispensing permission,” making sure that neither of us is usually perceived as the bad cop. When it may appear that she is always the nay-sayer, I need to either give her the opportunity to be the good cop or put on the black hat myself.

I can’t say our rule of law settles all the bickering, or even the occasional angling to receive those youthful wants, but I can say we haven’t had any unexpected deliveries from the Columbia Record Club.

SOUND OFF: What divide and conquer strategies have your children used on you and how did you handle them?


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2 Responses to “The Pick-a-Pushover-Parent Plot”

  1. Phillip Gibb Says:

    ha ha, I have seen that in action – the kid looking for a reversal from the other parent – in like 2 seconds flat. Amazing.

    I can’t say that my kid has done that – still to learn that one, ha ha ha.


  2. Leary Gates Says:

    Hey Phill!

    Thanks for posting your comment. You’re right, it’s amazing how fast it can happen. I don’t know how I picked up that skill as a kid but I sure know it takes a lot more work now as a dad to be aware of it. Happy fathering!


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