Mother-in-Law Driving You Crazy?
“My mother is always bribing my kids with candy to get hugs”.
“My sister-in-law’s kids are always up till 10pm – she gets so judgy when we need to leave early for bedtime.”
“My father-in-law doesn’t ever really actually play or connect with the kids – all he does is buy gifts.”
… just a few of the complaints I’ve heard of late.
Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you don’t live that close to family – possibly thousands of miles away. For most of us, gone are the days of raising children within the hub of a larger, supportive clan. This, to me, is a major loss. Don’t misunderstand me… there’s so much to love about living in the 21st century. I’m grateful to live in a time and a place where, for the most part, we take our children’s survival for granted, and then there’s modern plumbing. And I’m actually a pretty private person. I like being alone and I like quiet.
But sometimes (OK, everyday), when I’m alone for hours on end in my apartment with my young children, I feel a deep sense of loss. Loss of a simpler, more connected time. A time when my children might have had a handful of adults, teenagers and children raise them and grow with them. A time when my position as “Mother” might not have had a capital “M”, because the significance of the role would have been shared among many mothers… and many fathers.
I feel it in those times that I am visiting a close friend, or family member… all the children running around (perhaps wildly), cheerios spilled on the floor (crunching underfoot). There’s more work, there’s more noise… and there’s much, much more ease. The ease that comes with being seen, the ease that comes with being part of something a little bigger than yourself and your kids. The ease that those family and friends bestow upon you by simply knowing your kid well enough to fetch them a snack or to ask them to quieten down.
And then there are those relatives who don’t bestow ease. The ones who set you on edge. And sometimes they’re the very same people, just at different times, or different moods. The family members who we feel threaten our path to peaceful, mindful parenting: the ones who “spoil”, “ruin”, “undermine”.
So what can be done?
- Practice an Attitude of Gratitude
Remember that it’s a blessing that your children have anyone in their lives that are interested in a relationship with them. Multiple secure attachment figures are a big asset to a child. So do your best to connect to a sense of appreciation that these people exist, however irritating you find them.
- Practice Compassion & Mindfulness
Those qualities you want to develop in your relationship with your child? Patience? Respect? They cannot exist in a vacuum. The same understanding you want to favor your four year old with, can be extended to your 64 year old dad. He’s got his inner child too, and it’s likely just as needy and immature as your kids.
- Have Faith In Your Child’s Competency
Your child is stronger, more autonomous, and can take more ownership over their relationships than you might imagine. Allow them their independence in forging relationships. It can sometimes be surprising how they are able to set limits or communicate needs, that you might have struggled with.
- Model Politeness & Affection Without Forcing It
I don’t believe it’s either effective or respectful to force a kid to hug or greet someone, but modeling the type of behavior you’d like to see in your child (and in your adult family member) is always a good idea.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you – do you have challenges with the other adults in your child’s life? What are your tips for smoothing out these relationship kinks? Let me know in the comments below.