Don’t Let Monster-In-Laws Dictate Your Parenting Style
In-laws usually want to be helpful to their children when parenting their own children. While many times their advice is valuable, often times well meaning mother-in-laws can put a lot of stress on a marriage with their advice or scrutiny about your parenting style.
“You know it is not good to let the baby have a pacifier too often.”
“He really needs to start eating table food about now.”
“We never gave our children choices. We told them what they needed to do and they did it.”
While you want to have a good relationship with your mother-in-law, you and your husband also want the freedom to bring up and discipline your children according to your beliefs and values, not your mother-in-laws.
Here are a few strategies to gracefully deal with in-laws when they interfere in your parenting style.
- Don’t take it personally. As hard as this may be, remember that her constant advice giving says more about her than it does about you. What’s fueling her behavior is a strong need to give advice, which has nothing at all to do with whether or not you actually need it!
- Change the subject. When your mother-in-law brings something up, just laugh and then change the subject.
- Turn the tables. Ask her if the advice she just shared is what she did with your husband when he was a child. Draw her into a discussion about what she did as a parent. This shifts the focus away from you and your parenting. Then, when you’ve finished discussing her parenting stories, just change the subject. She’ll feel great because she will feel heard and you’ll feel great because you won’t have to listen to any more of her advice!
- Go silent. When your mother-in-law makes a comment, stop what you’re doing and then look at her without saying anything. Let the silence linger for a few minutes, and then change the subject.
- Stand together. You and your husband can approach his mother together and let her know that although you appreciate her insights and suggestions, the two of you have determined what parenting style works best for the both of you.
You need to talk to your spouse about your feelings first. They are the reason that you have a relationship with your in-laws and strategizing and discussing ways of coping with that relationship can prove to be useful in two ways. Firstly, it will provide some insight into the best ways to handle your in-laws. Secondly, and most importantly, it will help in separating your own relationship with your spouse from the one you have with your in laws.
It's important that you and your spouse are in agreement about how you parent your kids. You both need to let your in-laws know that you appreciate their care and concern, but you might have a different way of doing things and the decisions regarding parenting your children are yours to make.Learn more about our Couples Therapy Exercises