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setting boundaries with in-laws who LIVE IN

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
My in laws live with me. It makes it difficult for me to set any boundaries with DS (only 16 months). DS is allowed to do more than most kids. We make it a point to "explore" with him and have taught him things like "careful", "dangerous", "hot" instead of saying "NO!" He is a wonderful child and we do not have any problems with behavior etc other than what is typical of a 16 month old.

I do not want a spoiled brat who always gets there way or they make everyone elses life miserable. Sometimes I think that he just cant get everything he wants when he wants it, especially when he screams and throws tantrums for it. For example, i am trying to develop healthy eating habits. The other day I gave him some raisins. They are high in sugar so I give them in moderation. He wanted more and I would not give him anymore. I explained to him that mama wants him to be healthy and that he can have more raisins another day and that we will eat different food. My father in law was beside himself. He just could not understand why I didnt give him more raisins to make him stop crying. Later DS was trying to ask FIL for raisins and FIL said "no I cant give you because your mama will shout at me!" Maybe this doesnt affect him now, but i feel later he will think I am the "mean one". He could have supported my decision.

Also, sometimes DS will throw his food on the floor and screan for me to pick it up. My FIL will do this a billion times. I told him not to because DS needs to learn cause and affect. If he throws it, then it goes bye bye and he doesnt get to eat it. Things like that.

My approach for a temper tantrum is to acknowledge the emotion and feelings, but not to give into the behavior. For example, I will say, "I know it is fun to put your hand in the tub of vaseline and smear it everywhere, but mama needs to save it for the baby so its not something we can play with. Lets try and find something else." I will try and redirect him, but it doesnt always work, so I just ignore the tantrum (which quickly ends when I dont feed it). My in laws start saying "no no baby you are a prince! you are a king! how can we see you cry!?" and they feed into the tantrum.

Naturally, I am the one concerned about his upbringing and his manners. DH is totally with me, but that doesnt matter when he is at work. Am I wrong? I mean, is it ok for them to "spoil him" while living in the same house? Do you think as a child he will interpret that as more love, or just see it as something to manipulate to get his way? I dont want to be underminded because there are things in their culture I do NOT want DS to follow (ie: obsession with skin color, educational status, on and on...) and I am scared if he sees me as the mean one, then he will be more inclined to follow them. On the other hand, I want him to have good manners and not be spoiled.

Any thoughts? Dont be scared to hurt my feelings, I am totally open
post #2 of 7
That would drive me crazy.

I definitely think they need to support you and your parenting philosophy.

I know that when we visit in-laws in Egypt, they'll give the kids cake for breakfast...and basically bring over giant boxes of chocolates and stuff (think Costco sized).. for the kids to eat all the time. It drives me insane... but as usually we're only there for a few weeks, I've stopped fighting that battle.

We also had issues where they would say stuff like "oh, you don't love me..." when the kids disobeyed.. and I would say, love in our family is unconditional. (If my kids tell me "I don't love you" or something when I say no or punish them, I just say "That's O.K. I love you with all of my heart anyways.") It really bothered me that they would try and associate love with obeying... and even today, DH has issues with that.

It's a totally different story as they are living with you. I probably would not have made a big deal about the raisins... unless we were having dinner soon... but for the other things, they would definitely have driven me crazy. I think you and your DH need to sit down with them and talk about your parenting philosophy and see if you can somehow get them on your side. It should not be a contest between you and your In-Laws to make DS love one of you more.

I realize that in many Muslim cultures family issues/problems are kept at home... but I wonder if speaking with an Imam/Shaykh could help? Perhaps in private first, and if necessary, as a family counseling session?
post #3 of 7
Hi,

Rambling reply - hope something useful in it.

I think in many cultures where people live with their in-laws, the GPs will want to spoil the kids and the the parents have to be the "heavy".

My mom (3rd generation German-American) loves to make cookies and cakes and so forth for the kids. It's part of her image of what a Granny does and I must admit I grew up w/ a sweet available after almost EVERY dinner. I think it would be harder if I lived w/ her.

I've seen it in Chinese literarture - kid is in trouble w/ the parents and kid runs to grannie to get out of it.

Children are clever and know who they can run to & get more sympathetic treatment.

At the same time, I think in our culture (crunchy, green-esque No. Americans ) we tend to demonize sugar and sweets.

I remember being shocked to see that in my DDs nursery school that sometimes the teachers gave crying kids new to schooling a "Sugu" (like a piece of "Starburst" candy) to comfort and distract them. I also once saw a school-bus driver do it w/ a crying kid on the bus. On the one hand I thought "How terrible - teaching children to reach for sweets to comfort them." Then I thought "Whatever, the message is 'Yeah, you're unhappy, here's a sweetie, calm down and get over it.'. Despite this using of sweets for comfort that I've seen, HK people tend to eat less sweets than in the USA (although that may be changing).

My kids do like sweets (esp DS) but they do not seem to be sugar fiends. They are 11 and 13 now and healthy and strong and have no cavities.

Have you asked your FIL about it? See if he could change the message to "No, your mama is in charge of your sweets."?
Or, could you discuss it w/ him and your MIL and have come to an agreement of when they CAN give your son sweet treats? I know it would break my mom's heart if she couldn't give my kids sweets and my nephews who live across the street from her and are watched by her every day after school.

But, I know it's much easier to say this when my mom and my m-i-l don't live with me.

Good luck.
post #4 of 7
Honestly, to me it sounds like it might do you well to learn to pick your battles. (i.e., Whether or not your FIL playing the rather classic baby-throws-adult-fetches game with your son is really negatively impacting his sense of cause and effect, or whether your feeding choices really do leave your in-laws with the impression that you'd shout at them if they give your son some raisins without your direct stated approval.) I know -- and especially with a first child -- how those battles can seem worth fighting ... who doesn't want to do everything right? But if we're talking parenting ideals, demonstrating flexibility and cooperation are valuable too, and those aren't one way streets. It's important that children see the adults in their lives working together. Obviously that wouldn't mean you shouldn't put your foot down about some things ... being a pushover isn't any better than being a steamroller. But, for example, deciding that putting your foot down on racism is an absolute priority and that whether or not your FIL picks up the same Cheerio a thousand times might be able to be let slide might actually do more to set good behavioral examples for your son in the long run than worrying so much about spoilage.
post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Liquesce View Post
Honestly, to me it sounds like it might do you well to learn to pick your battles. (i.e., Whether or not your FIL playing the rather classic baby-throws-adult-fetches game with your son is really negatively impacting his sense of cause and effect, or whether your feeding choices really do leave your in-laws with the impression that you'd shout at them if they give your son some raisins without your direct stated approval.) I know -- and especially with a first child -- how those battles can seem worth fighting ... who doesn't want to do everything right? But if we're talking parenting ideals, demonstrating flexibility and cooperation are valuable too, and those aren't one way streets. It's important that children see the adults in their lives working together. Obviously that wouldn't mean you shouldn't put your foot down about some things ... being a pushover isn't any better than being a steamroller. But, for example, deciding that putting your foot down on racism is an absolute priority and that whether or not your FIL picks up the same Cheerio a thousand times might be able to be let slide might actually do more to set good behavioral examples for your son in the long run than worrying so much about spoilage.
post #6 of 7
it is really hard. i totally agree about picking your battles. i do hate the "no" thing as well. drives me craaazy.
post #7 of 7
Has your DH talked with his parents about this? Maybe coming from their son they would listen better. The most problematic thing to me is that they say "he is a prince, he is a king." No kid needs a message like that! He is loved and precious, but not the center of the universe.
My heart goes out to you - I would have a very, very hard time living with my in-laws. FWIW it sounds like you are a great mom, and hopefully the power of your parenting will keep your son grounded.
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