Genius Parenting Trick: Why I Let My Husband Play Bad Cop

By Britt Reints, REDBOOK

On June 1, 2011, my family of four-myself, my husband, my 11-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter-moved out of our home in the Orlando suburbs and into a 24-foot RV. Our plan is to travel around the United States for a year, living on a small bit of savings and my income as a freelance writer and professional blogger. We decided to take this trip for many reasons. We wanted to spend more time together and learn more about what really matters to us as a family and as individuals. Most importantly, we wanted our children to have a broad understanding of what it means to be American. There are a lot of people from a lot of different places who use the term American to describe themselves, and I think it will make our children better citizens to be able to see that diversity and shared patriotism firsthand.

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My family pulled into Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and was instantly mesmerized by the billboards and flashing marquees promising attractions on every corner. It was clear we would find no shortage of things to do here. What I didn't anticipate was how much stress that plethora of options would cause, or how liberating it would be to delegate it.

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My 6-year old is in the midst of an insatiable stage. There is always more to do. Just enjoyed a few hours inside WonderWorks? Let's go to the aquarium! Finishing up a round of mini-golf? Let's play at the course across the street! I'm assuring myself this is a temporary phase, because her older brother went through and has since outgrown a similar stage.

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Temporary or not, this current condition left me saying, "No" several times a day for the majority of our time in Myrtle Beach. The marketing there is powerful and constant, giving my daughter plenty of suggestions for yet more we could be doing. After about five days, I'd reached my limit.

I was feeling inadequate. It seemed I would never be enough because I couldn't afford more attractions, more souvenirs and more shows. Logically, I knew this was irrational. Most families can't afford to accommodate a child's every request, and our financial limitations are compounded by the fact that this was just one stop during a year of cross-country travel. There is simply no way we could splurge for 52 weeks straight. But all the practical logic in the world didn't make the constant refusals or explanations any easier to give.

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My husband and I decided to switch roles. I handed over the family's cash and asked him to be the budget gatekeeper. Maybe it's because I'm currently the family's breadwinner or it's simply a difference in personality types, but my husband feels absolutely no guilt when he tells the kids we can't do something. He doesn't take it personally, which makes him perfect for the role of Bad Cop.

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Our family did do some fun things in Myrtle Beach. We played on the beach, walked along the boardwalk, took in a family-friendly improv show and enjoyed a night at the Carolina Opry. Those things were great, but by far my favorite part of our visit to Myrtle Beach was being able to exchange "No" for "Go ask your father."

Britt Reints is a freelance writer currently living in a 24-foot RV with her husband and two kids. They're traveling the country for a year and sharing their story on her blog, "In Pursuit of Happiness."

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.