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In-laws trying to teach my kids their religion - How to stop this?

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone,

My husband and I were raised with different religions. I grew up in a somewhat liberal Southern Baptist home and he grew up in a Mormon home. Neither one of us practice our parent's religions. We hold many Christian beliefs but do not believe the Bible to be completely literal or accurate.

 

When my mom starts in on teaching our kids (age 3 and 2) Bible stories, I intervene on the ones I find inappropriate (for example, I do not want my kids believing that whales can swallow people for days and then barf them back up if the person angers a god) and ask her to move on with a different story. She seems to mostly get it and reads the kids primarily secular stories. Handling her is fairly easy. She stops when I ask her.

 

The real problem is with my in laws, especially my mother in law. She has serious boundary issues, and not just with religion. For instance, when I was pregnant she built a nursery in her house and would sent me long emails about taking the baby overnight. That stopped when I told her sure she could have my newborn overnight, as soon as I could cut my boob off and pack it along. After my son was born she called him "her baby" and spent a lot of energy trying to undermine the parenting practices of my husband and I, even telling lies behind my back to get her way. She once threatened to call cps on us because we practice elimination communication. These are just highlights from 7 years of inappropriate behavior on her part. So to say that we have had an on going issue with her and boundaries is a bit of an understatement.

 

My mil is well aware that dh and I do not attend church, he is not an active member (I don't think she can bear to think of him as the exMormon he truly is) and that we do not teach our children religion. Yet she thinks it's perfectly fine for her to teach the kids Mormon stuff behind our backs. I discovered this when I arrived early to pick my son up and noticed a book in the den of children's stories from the BoM.  This has continued and now we have twice had her presenting my three year old (who is nearly four and very aware of what he sees) with images of Jesus getting murdered on a cross. The first time, I snatched the book up and put it in my bag to "take home" aka throw away. The second time, my husband realized what was going on and told them "We don't teach that!" and asked them to respect the fact that our kids are young and should not be shown images of murder. He was very shaken up when he told me about it later.

 

I don't understand what the proper way of addressing this is. My mil is not mentally balanced. She is an extreme manipulator and histrionic. Anything negative said to her causes a sh*t storm of her own making. My husband doesn't want to make waves. His parents are very fickle and conditional in their affections. He imagines that they will help us financially sometime and so we shouldn't piss them off. I have absolutely had it with their antics and have subtly stopped all unattended visits with the kids. No more going over there for a couple hours while I do housework etc. 

 

Some of the messages in the stories she has read to my kids are downright disturbing and not at all in line with the beliefs of dh and I. 

 

How do you guys handle over bearing in laws proselytizing to little children??? It's so inappropriate to teach your religion to another persons children, I just don't even understand how to stop them without causing a huge fight. It makes me extremely angry and I find it to be so disrespectful. Dh is not going to handle this one, I have to do it.

post #2 of 38

One thing you can do is take some preventative measures with your children.  I know your children are young, but you can try to explain what the grandparents believe and that you do not agree with them.  Share with them what you DO believe.  I think it's important not to say anything too negative about what the grandparents are teaching, or about their religions, because it could make it into a forbidden fruit type of thing where they go the grandparents to learn more, without your knowledge.  Focus on the stories just being stories.  

 

As for the inlaws, I think you need to be extremely clear about what is okay and what is not, and perhaps not leave the kids alone with them at their home.  If it causes a huge fight for you to say directly to your mil that "I appreciate that you love our children, but you may not share your religion with them until they are much older," then so be it.  Stick to your guns, don't let her change the subject until she has acknowledged what you've said. 

post #3 of 38
Stop all contact with her. When she notices, tell her she must respect your wishes regarding religion and never discuss it with your children. Then, you can never let het be alone with them. Sorry, but there is no way to get her to respect your boundaries. The best you can hope for is a grudging acknowledgment that the boundaries exist.
post #4 of 38

The only way is to supervise visits. If she's teaching him things that you don't want him to learn, then she loses the privilege of seeing him without you.

 

I don't know a lot about Mormons, but I know that the family being Mormon as well is extremely important (important enough that they "baptize" ancestors). Your MIL is probably not going to stop.

post #5 of 38

I am a Christian and I have the reverse situation, but that doesn't mean I can't relate to yours.

 

I have family members who are nonbelievers who I have had issues with because they expose my children

to things that go against what we believe and teach them and often times things that are inappropriate.

What we've done is limit contact, supervise visits and most importantly I might say is talking to your kids

about what you do and don't agree with. Ultimately I think that is most important. We can't completely

control other people, so preparing our children and letting them know not everyone has the same views as

our family has worked best. Another thing to consider is that our children are individuals so we can't keep

every idea or religion or political standpoint from them forever and even though my hubby and I are Christians

we plan to share about other view points and religions and our children are welcome to explore and decide for themselves

as they get older what they believe. I do think it is inappropriate to teach your religion or much else for that matter to another person's child, but grandparents do often feel that their grandchild is their child too. I would have a serious sit down discussion with them, perhaps you could tell them what is and isn't okay and why and hopefully they will be understanding.

post #6 of 38

We've had a similar problem although not so extreme.  But my mom actually lives with us so i was always especially worried about it.  but now that my oldest is 6 he already says things like, "grandma is being crazy again".  i have to stop him so she doesnt hear!  but yeah, crazy is obvious and hopefully your kids will pick up on it at an early age.

post #7 of 38

I am a major, major advocate of grandparents having an important and authoritative role in a  child's life. I do not correct my parents or in-laws in front of my children. I might talk to them later, privately, about something they said or did that was particularly insane, but that's it. At home, we reinforce what we believe (pr don't believe) and simultaneously reinforce that It's Rude To Fight With People About God. 

 

Of course, my parents and in-laws are not complete jerks, so my methods probably won't work for you. Supervised visits are good. Then, AT HOME, you can talk about stories that don't accord with your beliefs and explain why. This has the tangential benefit of reducing opportunities for MIL drama. 

 

Two of my kids are hardboiled atheists despite constant social exposure to deistic beliefs, and that's because their father is a hardboiled atheist. He never starts or participates in God fights in public. The st-home instruction method is apparently quite effective. 

post #8 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

Stop all contact with her. When she notices, tell her she must respect your wishes regarding religion and never discuss it with your children. Then, you can never let het be alone with them. Sorry, but there is no way to get her to respect your boundaries. The best you can hope for is a grudging acknowledgment that the boundaries exist.

This!  She's just going to keep getting worse once she sees tehre's no real consequences to her actions.  Getting scolded will be worth it to her to "save his soul".

post #9 of 38

from all that you have described really i dont see another way out of this.

 

so either - cut your inlaws off

 

or always be there supervising

 

or let them carry on and you build your children up from home

 

however there is another way of looking at this. 

 

it really isnt proselytizing in my books. its gma's love for her grandchildren. i mean imagine when you truly believe that the only way to everlasting life is through jesus (or whatever the belief is). the first person you want to do that to is your grandchildren to save them. so while you do not like what they do, at least understand why it is so important to her. and hopefully it wont make you feel so bad. bottom line emotion is love.

 

now as horrible she is to you adults you dont question their love for their grandchildren do you? doesnt matter if your definitin of love and theirs are different. their intention is what matters.

 

however love or not, they are doing something you dont like. asking them to stop is like asking someone to never eat or drink. so you  have to make a v. v. v. hard decision. and trust your kids. 

 

if it were me - if the kids have a really close relation to their gparents then i'd allow it. i'd make sure you point out murdered jesus is not appropriate. and you guys talk to your kids at home. or help them see what is appropriate and what is not. i did that with my fil. he's read stories that were child appropriate - not really with the intention of proselytizing. it meant a LOT to my 3 year old to have those stories with grandpa. 

post #10 of 38

My parents just made sure I knew that the religious stories I heard from other people were "just pretend". That was adequate armour for me. My mom also told me that god was something people believed in "in the olden days". I ended up with a mild sort of sympathy for religious people, who I just thought hadn't gotten the memo. :)

 

Something like a story of Jonah and the whale I don't see as harmful. If the kids have a firm grounding in science, they'll know it's not possible, and they'll see it as a sort of fairy tale, like Beauty and the Beast or something.

 

It's important that they not be frightened by all the biblical gore, though. 'Cause it can get kind of scary.

post #11 of 38

Meemee, I actually don't agree with you. You might remember that I have a difficult situation with my inlaws, too. Obviously, I don't know your inlaws, OP, but they sound a lot like mine. Poor you.

 

I think this kind of manipulation has nothing whatsoever to do with love. I like the bible statement, even for non-christians about love:

Love is patient and is kind; love doesn't envy. Love doesn't
 brag, is not proud, {13:5} doesn't behave itself inappropriately,
 doesn't seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil;
 {13:6} doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the
 truth; {13:7} bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
 endures all things. {13:8} Love never fails

 

the "Love" that this inlaws present is about themselves. Like my inlaws. They believe that their grandchildren belong to them, it's not even really about the children. It's only about themselves. They want to have the "good" emotions, they want to tell people how good they are with their grandchildren. Like this with the nursery in their home. It's not about what's good for the baby, or the mother. It's only about their feelings of entitlement.

 

I am quite angry with my inlaws, because they kind of ruin my life. So I feel with the OP .

post #12 of 38

My MIL and mother are both Catholic.  I am Pagan; DH is kind of in between.  He professes to be Catholic but he doesn't really believe in any of the doctrine, go to church, etc... and he's really much more Pagan than not.  But he wouldn't say it that way, so whatever.

 

MIL gets the kids Christian themed stuff sometimes, like little Bibles or Easter/Christmas stuff, prayer cards or candles... etc.  I don't really have a problem with that.  She's not very religious anyway, well, maybe she is in her heart but she's not hardcore about it like my family was.  My mother is actually rather respectful, NOW, of my being Pagan, but she certainly doesn't approve.  It was a different story when I was a teen.  She'd be literally throwing holy water on me, mocking my beliefs to my face absolutely cruelly, throwing out my spiritual items, telling me I was Satan's spawn... It was a trip, I tell you.  I stopped practicing Paganism until I moved out of the house, and then stayed quiet about it for many years.  It wasn't worth arguing with her over it.  She told me a few years ago how glad I gave up that stupid Pagan stuff of my youth, and I'm like... huh, OK, I'm still Pagan.  Surprisingly she hasn't thrown a fit over my raising the kids in my faith, and I'm sure it takes significant tongue-biting on her part.  I did catch her trying to baptize my son when he was a few months old.  Um, OK.  Since I don't believe it did him any harm, I didn't care, really, but it obviously rubbed me the wrong way.  She does say off-the-cuff remarks like how my children need prayer in their lives and need to learn morality and this and that... uh, yeah, we do that, thanks.

 

My mom also had boundary issues.  When I was pregnant with DS (my first) she suggested I leave my then-boyfriend (we got married right before the baby was born) so she and I could raise it together.  Then she suggested more than once that I send him to live with her - for no particular reason.  And she told me how she was closer to her grandmother than to her mother, so she would happily raise him for me, as long as I got a job outside the home to help support everyone.  Um, what?  No... thanks.  And she was a SAHM to me, so I don't get why she would even say that.  Not to mention she didn't want my kids calling me Mommy or Mama because SHE wanted to be "Mama" or "Mami" to them.  (What were they supposed to call me if she wanted to be that?!)  Oh well.  So all in all, I am really surprised that she has been as respectful as she has been about the religion thing.

 

Aaaanyway.  To address the OP's situation, and the ensuing conversation... we do include the Jesus stories and some OT stories in our informal religious education.  Like, we'll get into child-friendly versions of what Easter is about, what Christmas is about - we also learn about other holidays as well, and we celebrate our own festivals as well.  Sometimes they choose to pray to God instead of the Great Mother, and I'm fine with that.  (They went to Christian preschool where they prayed to God, and DH sometimes prays to God.)  I draw the line at praying to Jesus though, because in my views he was a great prophet but not God.  So we talk about how some people think he WAS God, but how Mommy (and Daddy) believe that he was a really good man who loved God and taught people how to be good.  Grandma and Grandmommy believe that Jesus was God, and that's OK, but we don't pray to Jesus in our house.  Etc.  We just basically try not to be judgmental, we tell the stories that seem interesting, and generally avoid prayer books or children's Bibles because sometimes they're a little too grounded in Scripture and make it seem like that's the only way to pray/believe.  So we just use our own words to tell the stories.  Basically we try to head them off... if we think that one day Grandmommy will say something about heaven and hell that we might not believe, we'll kind of try to tell them that SOME people believe this, or that.  Then we'll also follow up with, other people believe in reincarnation, where you come back as another person.  OUR FAMILY, however, believes in the Spirit World, etc.  It might sound confusing, especially for preschoolers, but they have done very well and know that different people believe different things, and that's OK.  We just try to keep it all very very simple... it seems to be working so far.  I think it helps that I was a World Religions major and really do have a healthy, genuine respect for pretty much all religious paths (as long as they don't hurt people) even if I don't agree with everything they say.  I don't say "ew those silly people believe this and that, ha ha ha".  I just make clear what we (Mommy and Daddy) believe, and that they're free (within certain boundaries as kids) to believe/pray how they want.

post #13 of 38
I went through the religious stuff with my in-laws. It was not really about saving souls or even religion. It was about looking good to their friends.

Anyone who goes behind your back and violates your wishes with your children, has shown he/she cannot be trusted. It happened once. How many times will it have to happen again? It's hard to admit our parents disrespect us, but when they do, they do. For our children's sake, we have to deal with it.

I wish I had acknowledged that my parents were disrespecting me with my son before they traumatized him.
post #14 of 38

Buy some story books for the grandparents to read. Explain that you want Bible stories to come only from you

post #15 of 38
Quote:

Originally Posted by aurora_skys View Post

 

My mil is not mentally balanced. She is an extreme manipulator and histrionic. Anything negative said to her causes a sh*t storm of her own making. My husband doesn't want to make waves. His parents are very fickle and conditional in their affections. He imagines that they will help us financially sometime and so we shouldn't piss them off.

 

Do NOT leave your children with crazy people, even relatives. Do not allow your husband to let other people f*ck with your kids heads for money.

 

It sounds like there are serious issues with grandma beyond religion. The religion stuff is just a symptom. Allowing your children to develop close relationships with someone like this will only hurt them in the end.

post #16 of 38

You know, I just thought of something else.  The last time we were visiting my mother, DD had some Barbies with her - she found my stash from childhood.  She was playing that two girl dolls were getting married and that they were gay.  OK, we don't really talk about gayness one way or another but the topic came up where she learned recently that sometimes girls marry girls and sometimes boys marry boys and that means they're gay, but most times boys marry girls, etc.  Just very matter of fact.  She was just basically demonstrating that she got the concept.  My mom FREAKED OUT and started telling her she was bad and that gays made her want to throw up and we don't like gay people... and she would have gone on if I hadn't raised my voice and asked her to stop immediately or we were leaving.  I had to contradict her right in front of DD - which I didn't like doing.  DD looked absolutely crushed though and didn't get why grandma had went off like that. 

 

I took my mom aside afterwards and told her that we do not teach our children hate, and told her that yes there are gay people in the world and it's not "promoting gayness" to acknowledge it.  (Not like I personally have a problem with gayness, but it's true that we were just being matter of fact about it.)  My mom was almost in tears, dismayed that I wasn't teaching my children morality and told me that it was her job as a grandparent to make sure they learned about morality.  Well... UNF.  Really.  I explained to her that we WERE teaching her morality and just because we did not agree with HER morality didn't give her the right/necessity to impose a hate-filled morality on the kids.  I was really firm about it.  If she had pressed the issue... gah, I just don't know.  My mom has a lot of issues down to thinking interracial couples are a travesty (well, DH and I are also interracial, HMM!) and this and that. 

 

So we do have our fair share of issues.  Religion isn't the only stumbling block.  I think the key is to choose your battles... and then don't back down from the boundaries.

post #17 of 38

I have had some of the same issues as well.

I am athiest and my husband believes in a higher power but not the bible itself.

After my son was born my mil started saying she wished she was his mother and bought stuff off my baby registry for her house, and not our house.

And she had  my daughter for a few weeks this summer and sent her to a christian camp. I was very upset.

It's very hard to say anything to his parents because they do occationally help us out finacially. I hate feeling like I have to walk on egg shells because they help us out.

 

In the end, if his parents are fickle with their affections and if his mother is mentally unstable (which it sounds like she is)... if you say anything to her, you run the risk of offending her and your father in law. I think supervised visits is best and prevention at home. I know your kids are young but you and your husband have the most influance on them. Make sure they understand that the stories gandma tells them are not real if you don't believe them yourself.

 

Best of luck!

post #18 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiqa View Post

You know, I just thought of something else.  The last time we were visiting my mother, DD had some Barbies with her - she found my stash from childhood.  She was playing that two girl dolls were getting married and that they were gay.  OK, we don't really talk about gayness one way or another but the topic came up where she learned recently that sometimes girls marry girls and sometimes boys marry boys and that means they're gay, but most times boys marry girls, etc.  Just very matter of fact.  She was just basically demonstrating that she got the concept.  My mom FREAKED OUT and started telling her she was bad and that gays made her want to throw up and we don't like gay people... and she would have gone on if I hadn't raised my voice and asked her to stop immediately or we were leaving.  I had to contradict her right in front of DD - which I didn't like doing.  DD looked absolutely crushed though and didn't get why grandma had went off like that. 

 

I took my mom aside afterwards and told her that we do not teach our children hate, and told her that yes there are gay people in the world and it's not "promoting gayness" to acknowledge it.  (Not like I personally have a problem with gayness, but it's true that we were just being matter of fact about it.)  My mom was almost in tears, dismayed that I wasn't teaching my children morality and told me that it was her job as a grandparent to make sure they learned about morality.  Well... UNF.  Really.  I explained to her that we WERE teaching her morality and just because we did not agree with HER morality didn't give her the right/necessity to impose a hate-filled morality on the kids.  I was really firm about it.  If she had pressed the issue... gah, I just don't know.  My mom has a lot of issues down to thinking interracial couples are a travesty (well, DH and I are also interracial, HMM!) and this and that. 

 

So we do have our fair share of issues.  Religion isn't the only stumbling block.  I think the key is to choose your battles... and then don't back down from the boundaries.

This is the place I'm coming from too (bolded part).  It is interesting, Tiqa, that you bring up the issue of "morality" because I tend to struggle with that with my relatives more than religious issues (although they are often intertwined).  My own DD came home from school one day and was very upset because she had gotten into an argument at school with her friends about gay marriage (she is only six, mind you).  She told her friends that girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys (which is a factually correct statement in my state) (substituting girls for women and boys for men, of course).  The other kids told her that she was wrong.  I think she was upset because she was questioned for something that she understood to be a fact.  We were able to have a good conversation about it and it makes me glad that she stood her ground.  It is not like we sit around talking about gay marriage all the time, but sometimes if questions come up we are matter of fact in our discussion with DD.  DD went to pre-K with a few kids who had either two dads or two moms.  She had questioned us about that and we didn't dance around the subject. 

 

I think boundaries are important but I also think that identifying the issues before they happen is something that has worked with my family (who is very conservative).  I know that even if my parents understand the boundaries (and basically I trust them) that occassionaly there is going to be slip up, it is bound to happen.  Given that, I learned early on to discuss certain subjects with DD before she visits or spends any length of time with them.  I also know that DD comes running back to me about anything that anyone has said to her, which makes me feel sorta good because it means she trusts and values my opinion.  I try to treat religious issues the same way.  Be frank about what we believe or don't believe and if DD comes back to us about what others have said, take the opportunity to discuss further.  I know that it can be tricky at certain ages but I'm always amazed (with DD at least) at how much kids trust their parents' positions on matters.  (that may be a negative thing in certain circumstances but you get my drift). 

post #19 of 38

Dh & I tried to be clear with our families that we did not want them talking to our children about religion other than in a "This is what I believe. . ." "Grandma believes in blah blah and that's why this is important to grandma" way.  It's fine to explain their beliefs, and not to be telling our children "This is the way it is" about any of their particular religions.  That said, it hasn't been pushed heavily on us and often anything we are given with a religious connotation, we don't often end up keeping since it doesn't actually fit our beliefs (being athiest and agnostic humanist, for the most part).  

 

 

OP - just to speak about the Mormon aspect, you will probably end up needing to be pretty clear almost to the point of what feels rude to get your inlaws to stop.  I was raised Mormon and I've often found that subtle signs that you aren't interested in participating/hearing about religion are often ignored or end up being interpreted as 'I'll try telling them later, at a better time'.  You'll probably need to say "Mom/MIL, it is not okay for you to talk to our children about religion at all.  Read this nonreligious book instead, we can discuss this more later in private.".  "It is not okay for you to talk to our children about religion, that is for us as parents only.  Please respect that boundary, we feel strongly about this."   You may be coming across as wishy-washy to them, somehow, hence the problem always cropping up again.  You might be able to relax your stance later, once your kids have a firmer grasp on your families beliefs and you've figured out a better way you can manage your other family members beliefs with those.


Edited by mumkimum - 8/24/12 at 8:07am
post #20 of 38

You can discuss with rationale people. You can have differences, and agree to disagree. But if your MIL is unstable and manipulative, it is a waste of time to discuss, or even argue, with her. She will twist it around and it will all be about herself - because that is all she can see - herself. And if your husband is still caught in it, still waiting, hoping... for his mom to approve, then you put him in an awkward spot as well. Because he will always be disappointed that she did not approve. You can not convince her. You can not change her. You can't change anyone really. A person has to want to change in order to change - and that comes from inside oneself. It can not be imposed from someone else.

 

But you can change yourself. You can change YOUR reaction to her. You can change how YOU decide to deal with her. I don't know what you need to do - if it is to reduce contact, to only have your children with her when you are also present, to remove all contact... but YOU have to decide what is best for you and your kids and then go with that. And don't wait, hope, expect anyone else to change. If they do, great. If they don't, then you won't be disappointed, because you were not expecting anything from them anyway. 

 

And the money issue is a power trip over your head. If you are not 16 and dependent, then you need to find your own way. Having little money and living simply, even hungry sometimes, but being totally independent and responsible for yourself and your immediate family, is worth more than ANY AMOUNT of money they could possibly hold over your heads. Plus, getting money from them will only come with a bunch of extra strings attached - strings you do not want, and will then feel powerless over. The money is a reason to decrease contact - not increase it. 

 

I wish you a little luck and a lot of confidence!

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