|Subject: In-laws interfere with mom's parenting
My son is 17 months old now, and since the day he
was born I have had problems with his grandparents, my husband's
They began by giving a lot of advice; I was able
to take the good and leave the bad. When my son was about 7 months old
my mother-in-law began to give me direct orders telling me what to do
with my son. For instance ... he rolled and hit his head on the coffee
table, he started to cry and I got up to pick him up. My mother in law
shouted, "Sit down now, he's fine." I ignored her and she
continued shouting this same order at me. I left the room with my son
temporarily to gather my wits. I have told my
in-laws that my husband and I are the parents and we will make the
decisions regarding our son.
When my son was about 12 months old, they began
disciplining my son when they felt it was necessary. I can be standing
next to my son and my mother in-law will scream at him from across my
house to stop doing something he is doing. If I had a problem with his
behavior I feel it is my place to correct my son, not hers.
Additionally, I do not believe in screaming or yelling at a child.
My husband and I are relaxed about what my son
plays with in the house and this seems to bother my in-laws. The last
time they came to visit, my father-in-law continually scolded my son
when he cried, and my mother-in-law turned to me and said, "Bill is
not going to put up with any more of his crap." I was devastated.
The rest of the weekend, I kept my son busy in his room or playing in
the yard. I even left the grandparents and took him to the park once.
My son is normally a very happy, curious, enthused
little boy. He is afraid of his grandmother and very rarely gets within
her reach. They come to visit about once a month and I dread it every
time they come. My son becomes very moody and clingy. Every time they
yell at him he looks at me, I feel like I am letting him down by not
advocating for him. The more they scold him, the more he cries, the more
they scold him. It has become a vicious circle and my son is miserable
every time they visit.
Do you have any suggestions for me? Can you
recommend any literature I could read? Any help you have to offer is
much appreciated. Thank you.
My heart goes out to you in this frustrating
situation. How sad that your in-laws can't simply enjoy their
I'm wondering what ideas your husband might have.
Could he help his parents to understand that they are alienating a child
with whom they presumably would like to have a close relationship? Could
he ask them to be a bit more open-minded or at least less vocal in their
demands and expectations?
How unfortunate that your in-laws can't see that
they are making your son too fearful to have the kind of loving and
trusting relationship any grandparent would want to have. If you think
they might be open to reading material, here are some suggestions:
Parenting Golden Rule
Children Really React to Control
Gather your courage and continue to stand up for
your son, because he is the one who can suffer the most in this kind of
situation. He is also the one who can benefit the most, by learning from
your example how to stand up for someone who is being hurt and
misunderstood and is not in a position to defend himself.
My articles on intervention may be helpful:
on Behalf of a Child in Public Places - Part 1: Is It Our Business?
Intervening on Behalf of
Children in Public Places - Part 2: What Can We Do?
Although I wrote these articles with public
intervention in mind, the fact that this is your own child only means it
is even more relevant and important for you to help him in these
If you are nursing, a La Leche League leader would
be another good resource, as they are experienced with similar problems
of disapproving relatives. The LLL includes the following articles on
do I respond to and avoid criticism about breastfeeding?
The folllowing articles on handling parental disagreements may also be
Best wishes with this challenging situation.
Please keep in touch.