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What to do about MIL?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I have always planned to go the GD route, and recently read Unconditional Parenting and got the DVD for DH to watch (he's not a reader) and feel this is definitely the way we are going to go with our now 21-month-old DS. To this point he's already been raised very AP of course and now that he's getting older I want to make sure of the way we handle his "discipline" (for lack of a better word). Really, just raising him.

My problem is my MIL. And I realize the problem could be a lot worse, but it's still really bugging me. She lives close by and sees DS at least 2 times a week. One of those times is usually on a Tuesday night, while DH goes to the gym and I am upstairs working (I WAH part-time a few nights a week). I've been noticing for quite some time now that I really don't like the way she interacts with DS, and it's just getting more and more unbearable for me to listen to.

First of all, her main interaction with him consists of ordering him about. "Pick that up!" "Put that away!" "Put your ball in the basket!" "Put your crayons back in the box!" and on and on. The moment he takes a toy out, she is ordering him to put it away. It's like she doesn't know any other way to interact with him except commanding him to do things. And then, each time he obeys one of her commands, it is followed by "GOOD BOY! GOOOOD BOOOOOY! GOOD BOY!" I literally counted tonight. She said "Good boy" to him over 30 times in less than 20 minutes. I wish I were exaggerating.

WHen she's not commanding him to put things away or good boying him, then she's either telling him not to do something (don't spin around in circles! you'll fall! don't touch that!) or hounding him about chewing his food, asking him every 2 seconds while he's eating "Can I see your mouth? ME SEE? ME SEE? ME SEE?"

She's not the sort of person that I feel I can really explain Unconditional Parenting to, kwim. She regularly beat the crap out of DH and was just in general a very cold and distant parent. So I acutally do appreciate that she is making an effort with DS but she has no idea what to do with him that's really appropriate and even though what she does would seem harmless to most people, it doesn't to me.

Sorry this is so long. I guess my questions are 2. Do you think that being exposed to her behavior a few times a week will be harmful to my DS and the way I am trying to raise him, and if so, how can I go about trying to change this?
post #2 of 26
I think I'd stop allowing her alone time with my son.
post #3 of 26
Quote:
She regularly beat the crap out of DH
This would be enough that she would never be alone with my child, not even if I was in the next room.
post #4 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by fresh_water View Post
I think I'd stop allowing her alone time with my son.
I'd also try for more supervised visits. I wouldn't be able to sit upstairs and listen to that. It just sounds unpleasant.
post #5 of 26
I think I'd try talking with MIL about this- maybe it doesn't register that your DS is _not_ like her dc was so many years ago. People get into habits and then tend to recall the actions that got the best results- maybe that's all that worked for her at the time. I don't know if it's really harmful per se' but I'd be worried that your ds would start to think that his gma is a meanie or something?
post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by D_McG View Post
I'd also try for more supervised visits. I wouldn't be able to sit upstairs and listen to that. It just sounds unpleasant.
Ok, but even when I'm right there, sitting right next to him, she still does it. I have tried making comments like pretending I am him talking, "It's hard for me to eat my dinner grandma when you keep asking to look inside my mouth," or I'll say "boy grandma is always telling you to put away your toys, how can you even play with them? You don't have to put them away if you don't want to" right in front of her. She just keeps doing it. When she tells him "NO NO NO..don't spin (or run)" I will say "YES YES YES...you're just having fun, if you fall down it's not the end of the world." The good boy stuff, I don't even know how to approach it. I tried telling my own mom that I don't want people saying "good boy" to him and she thought I was insane, and I bet that would be the same reaction I'd get from MIL. So what do I say? "Excuse me, don't call my son a good boy--" and then if I try to explain, she'll look at me like I have 18 heads.

I don't think she would DARE to touch DS. But she would never be truly unsupervised with him. I am literally just at the top of the stairs. I hear everything that goes on and would be down there like a flash, and she knows it.
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by angelachristin View Post
Ok, but even when I'm right there, sitting right next to him, she still does it. I have tried making comments like pretending I am him talking, "It's hard for me to eat my dinner grandma when you keep asking to look inside my mouth," or I'll say "boy grandma is always telling you to put away your toys, how can you even play with them? You don't have to put them away if you don't want to" right in front of her. She just keeps doing it. When she tells him "NO NO NO..don't spin (or run)" I will say "YES YES YES...you're just having fun, if you fall down it's not the end of the world." The good boy stuff, I don't even know how to approach it. I tried telling my own mom that I don't want people saying "good boy" to him and she thought I was insane, and I bet that would be the same reaction I'd get from MIL. So what do I say? "Excuse me, don't call my son a good boy--" and then if I try to explain, she'll look at me like I have 18 heads.

I don't think she would DARE to touch DS. But she would never be truly unsupervised with him. I am literally just at the top of the stairs. I hear everything that goes on and would be down there like a flash, and she knows it.
Sorry, but you and your DH need to sit your MIL down and explain your expectations. I never would have dreamed I needed to have a no-spanking convo with my mom until I saw her spank my niece. It is your responsibility to your son to talk to her about what is appropriate....better that your DH initiates the talk and really gets her to understand you are a united front. This type of interaction would be damaging IMO. If you feel this isn't right for your son, it isn't. SHe either needs to respect your wishes, or you need to make other child care arrangements. I know this is difficult, but it is necessary if you are committed to raising your son GD and other caregivers aren't respecting that.

:
post #8 of 26
Frankly, I would let the "good boy" thing go. Its not going to warp him to hear that a couple of times a week. In the "pick your battles" vein, this one is one I would let go.

However, the constant badgering and the excessive safety I think would be worth a conversation. You can't do hints though -- that's sort of passive/aggressive and apparently not working anyway. Away from your son, you need to say "MIL, I'm sure you don't really hear yourself, but when I hear you interact with child, you are constantly ordering him around. Please do not do that. In his house he may play with whatever toys he wants. If you truly feel something is unsafe, please ASK him to stop and provide a distraction. We want him to learn polite tones and words, and he cannot do that if the adults around him don't model it to him." You may need to add "I know this is different than the way you parented, but please respect our ways in our house". Then, when you hear something you don't like, you will probably need to remind her to "model politeness" or whatever.

When you are right there you could also take the tactic "You don't need to worry about him, I'm right here" -- though that doesn't help when you aren't.

Sounds like you need lots of direct conversation and instructions. It will help if your DH is on board and willing to back you up.

Good luck!
post #9 of 26
I think uyou need to confront her, in as nice a way as possible, basically saying "I know you're trying to help, but we've found that he doesn't respond to that type of parenting. he does much better and we're all alot happier if we let him explore what his body can do and explore his surroundings."

Is it YOUR house, or MIL's house? If it's her house, ask her to put things up while DS is there so he doesn't break anything valuable to her. If it's your house say "It's OK if he plays with that."

Really, you need to speak as a parent, not as the child, and tell her that what he's doing is OK by you and DH, and not anything for him to be nagged or punished about.
post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks all. Yes, it's our house, and the downstairs where they are is completely toddler safe. All we have down there is the couch, a comfy chair, the TV, and his toys. And the kitchen which is all baby proof. There is nothing unsafe for him to get into. She just tells him to stop running or spinning in circles "because you'll get dizzy and fall," etc. Even when I am with him she's always acting like he's going to get hurt and I'm not going to do anything. I have even said to her, "How do you think he lives through each day alone with me when you're not here?" and she just ignored me. We were at a family member's house a few weeks ago who had a pool and I was going to take him in the backyard and she actually yells at me as I open the door "Be careful! He runs fast! Don't take him out there, he'll run straight for the pool!" That irritated me to no end. First of all, does she think she's got more information on my son, whom I spend 24/7 with, than I do? And secondly DS is so not the type of kid to just run out headlong into something. He's very cautious, for a toddler, especially when he's somewhere he has never been before.

I find it hard to talk to her because I just can't seem to apprroach her in a nice way, which is my problem and I know it, but I have such a deep-rooted disgust for her because of many other things she has done in the past, not even involving my son, that even something small I'm afraid I would just blow up at her. And DH is such a freaking chicken when it comes to confronting his mom. I don't know. I guess I'm going to have to tell DH that he either talks to her about it (with me there, but he needs to get the ball rolling so that I don't just start b*tching at her) or he'll need to stop going to the gym in the evening while I work, because I don't want her around DS with me not in the room.
post #11 of 26
I highly recommend the book Boundaries. There are also some good reads out there about toxic in-laws and parents. It is absolutely inappropriate for her to correct YOU in front of your son. You're the mother, not her. She has no right to try to control how you raise your son, and is out of line for correcting him when you're right there with him. I agree with the others, that your husband needs to be the one to talk to her about this.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by angelachristin View Post
Thanks all. Yes, it's our house, and the downstairs where they are is completely toddler safe. All we have down there is the couch, a comfy chair, the TV, and his toys. And the kitchen which is all baby proof. There is nothing unsafe for him to get into. She just tells him to stop running or spinning in circles "because you'll get dizzy and fall," etc. Even when I am with him she's always acting like he's going to get hurt and I'm not going to do anything. I have even said to her, "How do you think he lives through each day alone with me when you're not here?" and she just ignored me. We were at a family member's house a few weeks ago who had a pool and I was going to take him in the backyard and she actually yells at me as I open the door "Be careful! He runs fast! Don't take him out there, he'll run straight for the pool!" That irritated me to no end. First of all, does she think she's got more information on my son, whom I spend 24/7 with, than I do? And secondly DS is so not the type of kid to just run out headlong into something. He's very cautious, for a toddler, especially when he's somewhere he has never been before.

I find it hard to talk to her because I just can't seem to apprroach her in a nice way, which is my problem and I know it, but I have such a deep-rooted disgust for her because of many other things she has done in the past, not even involving my son, that even something small I'm afraid I would just blow up at her. And DH is such a freaking chicken when it comes to confronting his mom. I don't know. I guess I'm going to have to tell DH that he either talks to her about it (with me there, but he needs to get the ball rolling so that I don't just start b*tching at her) or he'll need to stop going to the gym in the evening while I work, because I don't want her around DS with me not in the room.
: : Good idea. Sometimes I just want to turn to my hubby and tell him to grow a pair when talking to his mama.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by angelachristin View Post
And DH is such a freaking chicken when it comes to confronting his mom. I don't know. I guess I'm going to have to tell DH that he either talks to her about it (with me there, but he needs to get the ball rolling so that I don't just start b*tching at her) or he'll need to stop going to the gym in the evening while I work, because I don't want her around DS with me not in the room.
I just wanted to jump in and say that you might want to be very gentle with your husband in this area. As someone who was beaten as a child, I can tell you that, for me, it can be hard to stand up to an abusive parent- even when you're grown and out of danger. It's difficult to explain, but your DH may simply be unable (not unwilling) to begin any kind of meaningful confrontation with your MIL.

I think, for the sake of your son, you'll have to do the talking. I wouldn't allow unsupervised visits, even after your discussion. No matter what she says or how she behaves, you just can't predict how MIL will react if she's really angry or annoyed. People who think it's alright to beat children don't reform just because of one conversation and it takes only a second to strike a child.

Best of luck to you.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Lily View Post
This would be enough that she would never be alone with my child, not even if I was in the next room.
Yeah me too! My FIL was horrible to my husband as a child (he was his stepfather, not biological) and thus is NEVER allowed to be alone with our children. We made that clear to my husband's mom right from the beginning.

I also agree with the direct conversation with her.
post #15 of 26
The "good boy" thing would drive me nuts. My mother does it too. I say "good boy is how you respond to a dog and it bothers me for some reason."

Maybe you can put in the video while she's there and just casually watch it in the same room as she's in. Pretend you just got it and want to check it out.LOL

I would be extremely po'ed if she talked to me the way she talks to you. I had issues with my husbands mother and grandmother trying to do that to me. I was a young mom (24) and they were constantly saying "be careful with him, it's cold outside) and generally treating me like a child who was holding thier child. I finally said "This is my child, I'm the mom and I'll do this my way." The grandma didn't talk to me for a year, which was fine by me. With my MIL, I said "I'm the mom and I will decide what is safe." She cried and made a huge deal of it. Ok, I just didn't say it, I yelled it, but still.

They respect my boundaries now for the most part.
Lisa
post #16 of 26
I agree with speaking to MIL directly. Also, is there a friend or someone who can watch ds? I don't WAH, but if I did I imagine it would be difficult to get much done if I also had to babysit the babysitter.
post #17 of 26
I agree with all the suggestions to talk to her directly. She's either not getting the passive aggressive comments or she doesn't care what you say. As uncomfortable as it may be to have the discussion, she'll either "get it," or it will give her the opportunity to tell you she disagrees with you. Then you can re-evaluate the whole situation based on her response to you.

Also, as much as it bugs me too, I'm choosing to let the "good boy" thing go. Even though DS has clung on to that and is always now telling me "Eli's a good boy."
post #18 of 26
I do recommend toxic inlaws especially since she is ignoring your requests.
My MIL would spoon feed Dd when she way old enough to eat on her own.
Very nicely I asked her to stop
She kept on
I said it again
and again
she was sitting right next to me

I touched her hand and said, STOP!

she immediately went inot the kitchen and began slamming things. Everyone went to check on her..was she ok. Please stop don;t worry! UGH!

anyway...we have had a few confrontations and I do NOT back down. I always make sure I come out as the mother and not soemone to be reckoned with.

this took years b/c initially I was trying to be polite..keep the peace but no more. and after only a few big fights. Now she gets it.

For the constant cleaning up...just tell her you want her to play with her grandson and not to worry about the toys. you like hearing them play and don;t mind picking up the stuff later.
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by angelachristin View Post
We were at a family member's house a few weeks ago who had a pool and I was going to take him in the backyard and she actually yells at me as I open the door "Be careful! He runs fast! Don't take him out there, he'll run straight for the pool!"
This stuck out to me. I realize had I been in your position this would have infuriated me too (the implication being that you would just let him drown). However, as an impartial observer, I just have to ask, has this women experianced loss in her life? Death of a loved one or divorce, abandonment,etc. Because to me, this combined with her not even letting him spin or CHEW for petes sake, this women is terrified of losing him for some reason. Any loss issues in her past that she hasnt really dealt with? Because if thats it, you are never going to get her to stop until those issues are addressed.
post #20 of 26
Angelachristin -- I know it's hard, but I agree that you have to be direct with her. Any indirect comments will give her the choice to ignore it. If you are direct with her, she will listen. She may cry and scream and complain to your dh, but she will listen.

I agree that dh should do the talking -- but just tell him, if he won't then you will HAVE TO. He may not have the courage or know-how to do it. So you may have to do it for him and for your son. Then, if he doesn't like the way you handled it, he will remember next time when you say, "please talk to your mom about this and tell her not to do this". He will either do it in his own way, or wait for YOU to do it directly. In my experience, my dh will "put it off" for another day, until the time has passed to say something. So, I'd only give him one chance. JMO.

It was very hard for me to stand up to my Asian MIL until it came to my children. Then I found the courage to do it. As moms, we have to protect our children.

I personally might let the "good boy" thing go, but if it's extremely excessive, and she doesn't know how to relate to your child, you probably need to be in the room always when she is there.

I think it's okay also to come right downstairs when you hear her nagging him to pick up or not to spin, and tell her not to do it, in a direct way, like "please don't do that, MIL". or "please stop".

You could also say that your ds seems stressed out after she leaves, as part of the conversation, and that you want ds to enjoy his time with her.
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