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Toxic In-Lawspost #1 of 191/8/12 at 11:36amThread StarterHi, I posted a while ago about my in-laws and since we last saw them things have only become worse. I just finished reading Toxic In-Laws by Susan Forward and it really helped DH and me feel less guilty about their reaction to our recent attempt to set boundaries with them. In the book, Forward helpfully states that I have the right to express my own beliefs, feelings, opinions, convictions, values, and traditions. She also states that we have the right to raise our childre without interference, protest when MIL regularly gives unsolicited advice, protest when she criticizes the way we raise our children, and that I have the right to be treated with respect by my in-laws. What do you think the difference is between expressing opinions and criticizing? My MIL has criticized every parenting decision dh and I have ever made, but the criticism is directed at me. She's tried involving herself in our marriage by telling me what I could do better there too. She's recently even gone so far as to criticize our dc saying that they are disrespectful and cannot follow rules because they are home with me all day and I do not have rules for our dc. MIL recently invited my parents to lunch to tell them all of this, in addition to telling us the last 2 times we say them over the course of a year. They are basing all of their judgements on my parenting choices and what they saw on a recent exhausting 3 day family trip where we shared a home for 3 days. My 4 yr old was significantly sleep deprived and limping around with an injured foot and in physical pain from falling and hitting his mouth and teeth hard enough to warrant a trip to the dr and dentist on our vacation several days prior to seeing dh's extended family. It's true dh and i parent gently, but we have many rules in place for our family. It's true that my youngest DS was a handful on the trip but he was very out of sorts the entire time. MIL called him naughty and bad, as did SIL, on the trip to us and to my parents when they met them for lunch afterwards. Dh has been fully supportive and has been dealing with my in-laws and letting them know their criticism, name calling, and interference is not ok. My in-laws are not willing to see how their behavior is hurtful. They feel they are entitled to their opinions, when it comes to our dc, our marriage, and our parenting decisions. I'm not ok with this. My own mother is not ok with this, she told them she does not agree and that any decision we make does not need to be defended. We are adults, wonderful parents, and we're raising great kids. She does not want to be put in the middle again and will not be seeing my in-laws socially again (my parents thought they were getting together for lunch to celebrate the holidays, as we are out of state and our parents live close to each other). Any thoughts on how to explain the difference between expressing opinion and hurtful criticism and unsolicited advice? TIA and sorry this is SO long!post #2 of 191/8/12 at 12:02pm
My FIL has made a few comments, particularly about how awful I am for going back to work, should be at home, and don't even get me started on nursing and (gasp) extended nursing.
I just look at him and change the topic. As much as I would love to say how I feel, I don't want to get into a discussion on our parenting decisions. As soon as I respond, to me, that makes it seem like it is up for discussion. It isn't so there is no point even responding. If he says it again, I get up and walk out of the room. If he says it again, DH & I leave and it will be a long time til we come back.
I know a lot of this is easier said than done. I was almost 30 when DH & I married, 35 when we started a family so I was established in my career and definitely in my opinions. :)post #3 of 191/8/12 at 1:25pm
Your in-laws are right about one thing: They are entitled to their opinion. Everyone has a right to have an opinion on just about any topic they want. But just because you think it, doesn't mean it needs to be said aloud. So if they want to defend their right to their opinions, you can support them by saying, "Yes, everyone has an opinion. Everyone has an @$$hole, too. Do you also want to share that with me, or do you think that maybe both those things should be kept private in the interest of maintaining a positive relationship with our family?"post #4 of 191/8/12 at 1:57pmThread Starter
Swd, thank you for that! They are adamant that they are entitled to communicate their disapproval and concerns and opinions on so may parenting issues, especially to me, about me, and because of me.
Thiis is the major issue we are not seeing eye to eye an dh and I both had to tell them that to continue a relationship with them we need them to show us he respect we deserve. These are our children and their criticism will not be tolerated. We also do not want them meddling in our marriage. Dh's mother has told me several times that she thinks it's awful dh often sleeps on the couch or in our guest bedroom so we can both get enough sleep. She then said this again to my parents, adding that she is very concerned about the fact that I make him sleep on the couch.
They just told us that they can't have a relationship or contact with us because they should be able to express their views. Repeatedly.post #5 of 191/8/12 at 1:58pmThread Starterpost #6 of 191/8/12 at 2:43pm
In my case my dad is the toxic one. I eventually and recently cut him out of my life. It brought u[ a ton of crap I'm in therapy for, but I honestly feel much happier with him out of my life.
To my the difference between stating an opinion and criticizing would go like this:
Opinion: I think kids should sleep in cribs because it fosters independence.
Criticizing: You're going to regret having your kid sleep with you. You must not be strong enough to do what's right for them.
Opinion: I think every child should attend public school.
Criticizing: If you homeschool your kids they're going to be socially inept and a burden on society.
Let it be known that the above are not my real opinions, but I thought it would be fun to represent the other side.
I think a key component to criticizing is frequency. If the person is harping, nagging, won't let it drop then it's not an opinion anymore.post #7 of 191/8/12 at 2:58pmThread Starter
Thanks, Lazurli! This is what I was having a hard time understanding in the book. It makes sense that an opinion is general, and I usually don't mind hearing what others decide is best for them. I do not like others telling me what is best for us, and criticizing our choices and our dc. My MIL has expressed that she thinks public school is fine. No problem! But when she says that our decision to homeschool our dc is the reason why she thinks they are disrespectful and unable to follow rules, I get angry. So does DH. We've told her many times for years that we are happy with our decision and she couldn't leave it alone. She went to my parents to try to enlist their help in getting us to send dc to school, discipline strictly, etc...post #8 of 191/8/12 at 3:00pmThread Starterpost #9 of 191/8/12 at 6:20pmTo piggyback on what Lazurii said, an opinion is more like a general idea which a person believes in. A criticism is a judgement of someone else.
For example, I may believe that spanking can hurt children emotionally, but I do not judge people who spank. That is just my opinion, but because I don't know all the factors happening in other people's lives, I can't judge them. It would be a criticism if I said to someone, "You shouldn't spank your children, they're going to end up being bullies" (disclaimer: I don't believe that), because that is a judgement of their parenting. It would be a passive aggressive if I said, "People who spank their children usually have lower intelligence" (see previous disclaimer), because that is indirectly insulting them. It would be a backhanded compliment if I said, "Oh, I see you used gentle discipline today; usually you just smack your kids around." ALL of those things end up being insulting and hurtful.
The point of all this is that your in-laws are welcome to give their opinions, but they aren't allowed to be insulting and hurtful to you. Sometimes it's not clear and definitions don't do the trick, and that's when you must check in on how you're feeling. Do you feel hurt, sad, angry, shocked, uncomfortable? Those are good signs that these people are crossing your boundaries. They are only allowed to express their opinion as long as they don't move into that territory.
I brought up passive aggression above because with that type of approach, if it's confronted, their argument will often turn into the innocent victim standpoint. "What? I'm not criticizing you, I'm just looking out for your kids, because you aren't." Or "I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, I'm just worried about my grandchildren. Why are you picking on me when I'm just trying to help?" And then it turns on YOU--you become the bad guy who is criticizing THEM. I don't know if that's what you're dealing with, but from what you said about your MIL I wouldn't really be surprised. So that's something for you and your DH to understand and prepare for too. It's not just about figuring out the boundaries and asserting them, but figuring out how to hold them when the ILs push back.post #10 of 191/8/12 at 6:36pm
Since I'm immature, the last time an IL decided to criticize me, I covered my ears and said I can't hear bullshit! Hey they were jerks to begin with and didn't like me anyway. What's a girl to do? F em. I have the grand babies!
Alright my advice should never be followed. I realize I'm a different sort and that's the way I am. I will never tell my IL's how to live their life and they will not tell me. However if they feel they need to reiterate their opinions I will then gladly call them drunks and whatever else I can come up with on the fly. Again I'm immature.post #11 of 191/9/12 at 1:45pmThread Starter
Spring Lily, you are right- that is what we are dealing with. Thank you for taking the time to post, it was very helpful.
Cerka, thanks for making me laugh! I now feel a lot less guilty since I said nothing even close to that level of counter-attack, and yet now they have responded that they no longer want a relationship with us. As upset as we have been, it's stil a shock and is very painful for my Dh especially. We had to tell them we were upset by their actions and why. We don't feel we had a choice but to tell them they need to show us respect if they are to be a part of our lives. I guess they weren't willing to respect our boundaries or admit wrong-doing.post #12 of 191/9/12 at 1:59pm
That's cruddy I'm really sorry.
Quote:Originally Posted by briansmama
Spring Lily, you are right- that is what we are dealing with. Thank you for taking the time to post, it was very helpful.
Cerka, thanks for making me laugh! I now feel a lot less guilty since I said nothing even close to that level of counter-attack, and yet now they have responded that they no longer want a relationship with us. As upset as we have been, it's stil a shock and is very painful for my Dh especially. We had to tell them we were upset by their actions and why. We don't feel we had a choice but to tell them they need to show us respect if they are to be a part of our lives. I guess they weren't willing to respect our boundaries or admit wrong-doing.post #13 of 191/9/12 at 2:21pmpost #14 of 191/9/12 at 3:16pm
We dealt with a lot of that with my in laws. Criticism, showing up at my parents' work behind my back to tell them that I am anorexic (I'm far from it!) when pregnant with my son. Calling my mom and telling her I am "mentally instable" (MIL's words) FIL stalking my dad to track him down at his local hangout and tell him all sorts of craziness. Threatening to call CPS... there's a long list of it. The difference is that WE cut THEM off. And you know what? We are happier for it. Life is so much less stressful without all of that. Good luck to you, I know how much these situations can affect a family.post #15 of 191/9/12 at 5:41pmThread Starter
Thank you all, it's been so hard and depressi around here. Stephenie, you give me a lot of hope that this is going to be a good thing for our family eventually. I was at the point where I wanted complete space from them and privacy about what my dc were doing because I knew they would pick it apart. After what happened on our recent trip with them I was angry and didn't want any contact.
But knowing they no longer want a relationship with their son and our children because of how we parent is so hurtful.post #16 of 191/9/12 at 6:28pmBrainsmama, I'm so sorry. We asked that my FIL treat us respectfully or not be in our lives, and he chose to not be in our lives. It's been a very painful thing for us. We've tried everything, even family therapy, to get us to the point where we can all interact without accepting their rude and hurtful behavior, but with toxic parents at some point you just have to learn to let them go. We remain hopeful that one day he may want to change, but it's been hard (especially for DH who was in denial for most of his life) to accept the fact that he just plain cannot change. Changing requires a little introspection, and some people can't handle that because it would cause their entire reality to crash down on them. Being oblivious is their survival mechanism.
The thing that kills me is you would think he's be able to try to be nice so that he could occasionally see his son and only grandchildren. It hurts my heart to think that my beautiful, innocent children have been ruthlessly cut out of his life. It's such a selfish act, it's difficult to wrap your brain around it. My younger kids have already forgotten ever seeing him, but do recognize him in photos, from us telling them who it is. It's getting easier as time goes on, and DH & I have felt a huge relief of our own stress and anxiety as we get distance. The hardest thing now is the sadness over knowing what the ILs have given up (our children) and letting go of any responsibility for that.post #17 of 191/9/12 at 7:04pmpost #18 of 191/9/12 at 9:09pm
briansmama- For us it isn't a toxic IL situation. DH's mother passed away 8 years ago and his father doesn't even bother to keep track usually. My SIL is the one who is toxic. Since DH's mother died, she assumed the role of matriarch since she is the oldest living woman in the family. This being said she does care in her way about my DSS. But she is so toxic to mine and DH's relationship that she has gone so far as to tell me to leave him. I have no legal rights thus far to DSS and with his BM not being in the picture, she believes that she would get custody of DSS. Never going to happen. Literally over my dead body. DSS is my son. To us there is no step. I have parented him from 8 months old and am the ONLY person he recognizes as mother. So SIL loves to talk crap about DH and tell DSS on the phone to come see her, etc. When she has only come up here on the day of our wedding. We have made 12 trips since 2010. The way we deal with it is limited contact. We do not go down there to see her. DH and I went down last month to see some friends who live in the same town. We told her she could meet us if she wanted, but that we weren't coming to her house. She came and saw us for a total of 45 minutes. I don't call her except for once every two weeks or so now. If I don't call, she will text DH and ask him why he is messing with my phone. Because she thinks I would never ignore her call... riiiight.
So we keep her at arms length. She is not happy that I plan on having a birth that doesn't include her, that I plan to breastfeed and clothe diaper, or that we refuse to move back down to her area of the state. He big upset was that I refused to send DSS to her the week that I am due. She wants to have her time with him for a week or so. Nah, that time is for DSS and new baby to get used to one another and learn how to be a nuclear family with another child.
My advice is to cut off contact. If they don't like it, it's their problem. As long as you and your DH present a united front, they might get the message. Your life will be much less stressful without the drama and contempt. Good luck, dear.post #19 of 191/9/12 at 10:32pm
I'm sorry...I've had major issues with MIL...I'm sure they will continue, but they are betterish for now.
A book that helped me was "Boundaries". An Action that helped me was standing up to MIL with Dh also doing the same and flat out saying, We are the parents X Y and Z are unacceptable, we want you in our lives, but not if this is going to continue. I need to know we can work together to work things out. The heavy implication of if you don't we won't see you, after having had almost a year of limited to no connect before this conversation helped, and when MIL crossed a line again and was told she did she actually apologized and seemed to realize we would and could stop contact if it continued.
Its the reality of I will leave that made her...adjust.
Boundaries helped me not take in as much negativity.
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