Help me be gracious with my in-laws undermining my parenting - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 09-15-2008, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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My dh, dd (3) and I are currently overseas visiting DH's family....please please please tell me all your best tricks and ideas for being a gracious daughter in law while I'm here for the next 6 weeks! From food, to disipline, TV, toys, etc, we have almost completly opposite approaches, and while we have clearly stated our desires, the grandparents continue to undermine them and disrespect us. I feel stuck, since A) we have very little language between us and B) they paid for us to come here....

My hope is that rather than trying to change them, I can find a way myself to be more flexible, understanding and supportive of their experience of grandparenting....while not completly abandoning my morals and values around parenting, or creating massive double standards for my dc...

Any ideas?
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#2 of 14 Old 09-15-2008, 02:35 PM
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How does your dh feel about this?
Will your dh step in?
I find that in dealing with my in-laws it's easier if requests/rules/policies are made by their son. Same thing with my dh and my mom. I set the tone of the visit, so to speak.
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#3 of 14 Old 09-15-2008, 02:38 PM
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grumpy bear - couldnt agree more. handling the inlaw problems is 100% your hubbys job, just as handling your families issues is 100% yours.

this is a particularly tough one as you are in their home for a long time. hubby really needs to step in.
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#4 of 14 Old 09-15-2008, 03:00 PM
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sounds tough. kudos to you for doing this.

what I would try to remember is that it's not forever. It's not even for that long a time. Although six weeks in my in laws house *would* seem like forever if I was doing it it really isn't.

We all have our parenting ideals and things we find important. What I've learned on my parenting journey, however, especially as DS gets older (he's 5.5 now) is that all that stuff that seemed so important when he was tiny has kind of slipped away. All the indignation over plastic toys and bottles and CIO and solids later and TV and such seems much less vital.

Please know that I'm *not* discounting what you're feeling. I'm just trying to give some perspective. If at all possible, assume positive intent. Your inlaws must love your DD and, hopefully, you. They want to connect with the two of you.

How can you let them connect that doesn't completely undermine your parenting principles? Could you let go on some food stuff, knowing the stay is short, for the greater good of peace and tranquility? Are there other things you could let go of a bit?

At 3, your daughter is old enough to understand, if you explain it to her, that while mama and papa don't let her do X, Y, Z at home, she can now because it's a special trip.

gotta go, kid is crying.
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#5 of 14 Old 09-15-2008, 07:34 PM
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I started to post, then I had to run. I think you need to be a little more specific. What exactly are you (not) looking forward to?

My ILs are constantly undermining my parenting choices. I heard that My baby was uncomfortable in a sling and I should put her in the stroller. My DD#1 Never tolerated a stroller, ever, she would scream as if I was beating her. I heard I didn't "potty train" her soon enough, but her male cousin who is a year older was "potty trained" around the same time. I still hear about the earrings... I should have gotten her ears pierced at birth the way they do it in their country. I used to argue, but my DH said to just agree and then do whatever we want because we see them so rarely...

We have discussed DH taking DD#1 to Lebanon by himself and leaving me here with DD#2, but I won't agree to it because I know his family and it's awfully far to be away from mommy for the first time ever.

So, from your post:
food: I say it depends... My DD#1 can't have any sweets at all, she also doesn't do well on white flour... She becomes hyperactive and has melt downs over anything, so I would lie and say she has a food allergy to certain things... OR I would let them load her up on sugar and white flour and see what happens, then when they ask, "what's wrong with her" I would answer, "this is what happens when she has too much sugar and white flour" so they would learn. I'm not sure what you're worried about, but if it's similar, you could play the food allergy card.

discipline: No one disciplines my children but me and DH, that's not up for discussion. No spanking, no yelling (unless DC is about to stick her hand in a bee hive or fire or something like that.)

TV: Providing they are not subjecting her to sex or bloody violence, I can bend on he TV issue.

toys, etc: It's only fro a month and a half, let them spoil their grandkids a little
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#6 of 14 Old 09-15-2008, 07:49 PM
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I agree with the suggestion to let your DH handle these kind of things, especially if there is a language barrier. Also, I would pick your battles wisely. Let little things go, they are hosting you, it's temporary, although ack, 6 wks is a long time, so I can understand your pain. I would just make your DH the go btwn person. Most in laws do not take kindly to dils disagreeing with the way they want things done and will blame it on the dil and act like their son is innocent. If your DH is the liason, they will take things a little bit better and won't treat you like a villian.
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#7 of 14 Old 09-16-2008, 02:14 PM
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I just nod and pretend I'm listening and then carry on with however I want to do things. I've found it easier this way. I've had extended stays with my in laws without Dh and this is how we could all be around each other in peace.

They grumble or mumble under their breaths or even out loud about how I just nod, but I ignore that too. I'll either try to change the subject or take the kids outside, to the basement, or on an 'errand'. Yes, it's irritating and sometimes I just want to scream, but I know that would just make the situation worse. I'm just thankful we don't live with them permanently! Although, lately MIL has been talking to Dh about us all needing to live together
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#8 of 14 Old 09-16-2008, 05:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the support and perspective. When I remember that of course they love my daughter too, and are seeking their own relationship with her, I am reminded to be tolerant, and of course to understand that it is only a short time, although it can seem long!

I think the challenging things for me are less the actual "issues" and more about respect. I feel very little connection to my in-laws, which I struggle with as I generally easily adapt to most families in most situations, but here there is huge cultural, religious and language barriers as well as personality barriers. Undermining my parenting is for me is a strong expression of lack of respect, for my choices, and for my ability to make good choices. When I express that I dont want DD to have ice cream before bed, and then grandmother offers it to her following my request not to have it, its not the ice cream that bothers me so much even though we never eat it at home and DD is on a limited dairy diet. Its the disregard for my request- especially when done in front of my DD, who understands and I can see feels conflicted between doing what she knows I asked (not having ice cream) and doing what she wants, which her grandmother offered. Of course, I dont want to then say no again and create tension and more disagrence with my mother in law in front of my daughter, but I resent that she puts me and my daughter in that position.

Anyway, thankfully yes my DH is on board, and is expressing to them the "rules" that are not flexible, and I for my part am working on relaxing, and staying out of the way.

Thanks for letting me express myself here! It greatly helps me to process....

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#9 of 14 Old 09-16-2008, 10:17 PM
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the ice cream before bed would bug me too. Poor DD. I'm sure she wants to please both of you and even at her age knows that ice cream before bed is insane.

Can you just swoop her up at those moments, ignoring the gradmom offering the ice cream and say 'lets go brush our teeth, read our good night story' whichever part of the bed routine you are in at the moment or about to be in?

If they like to treat her with food can you go on the grocery runs together and point out the healthy things dd likes, "ooh! there's some strawberries, dd loves those"

tough with the language barrier. i can't imagine

I recommend to keep being as gracious as you are, lots of smiles and warm looks to the ILs and respectfully keep your parenting in tact- Hopefully they will see that you want the best for dd and that you are a great and loving mother and who wouldn't respect that?

I agree with the pp about head nodding, favorite of mine as well
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#10 of 14 Old 09-16-2008, 10:42 PM
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Take a deep breath. And smile. I only offer support because I have not been in this situation, but it's only a matter of time before I meet DP's parents. : I hope I can remember all the great advice cuz I know I'll need it too! Here's to hoping your time passes quickly and that by the time you leave you will have a new bond growing with your IL's!
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#11 of 14 Old 09-17-2008, 10:20 AM
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On a vacation (even a 6 week long one) I would let the kids have ice cream and lame toys from Grammy and Grampy. I would even let the kids jump on the beds, put sand in their hair, and watch mind rotting cartoons. It's a VACATION!

And I dont' consider any of those things to be morally bankrupt, so it wouldn't interfere with my values.

However, I would draw the line at someone else disciplining my child, but since you will be present the entire time, it shouldn't be an issue, right?

Be VERY careful about your attitude towards your inlaws. My mother really poisoned my sister and I against our paternal grandmother. It took me until I was in my mid-20's to realize that Grandma was not mean - she just had a hard time watching her son make mistake after mistake (he's her oldest, but her "baby") and my mother was a big part of that. (Plus, if a woman breaks your nose, you deserve to break her vacuum, right? ) There was also a bit of a cultural barrier, because she was born and raised in Germany, and never did fully assimilate into American culture.

As it turns out, my mom's mother is the woman to revile.
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#12 of 14 Old 09-17-2008, 11:04 AM
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I really believe that we are the masters of our own home, but when in others' homes, well, you have to accept that you can't control everything and that rules are different. Children have an amazing capacity to understand this. At my in-laws (and they live two blocks from us, so this is a permanent situation for me) my kids understand that things are done differently. So they watch a lot more TV over there, and they get to eat ice cream which we don't have at our house, and they are not allowed to run around and be loud inside the house (which they're free to do at home.)

I just make sure that I keep my boundaries firm on things that are permanently harmful. So no, MIL does not get to spank my kids, even though she seems to be allowed to spank my nephew. DH has told her that she can't spank them, and she seems to accept that, but just in case, I simply don't allow her to handle discipline. If she objects to something they're doing, I immediately step in to diffuse the situation and remove them from the house if necessary (let's go play outside!).

With food, MIL is the type that wants to force children to eat everything on their plates, but she serves them these heaping platefuls of food. So firstly, DH has started serving the kids' plates (he puts a lot less food, and knows how to ignore her or say no when she tries to get him to serve them more) and then if my kids are full, DH or I just discreetly slip what's left onto our own plates.

I think that if my children had a serious sensitivity to something (like dairy) that I would simply say they're allergic and just not allow it to be served to them at all. IMO, sensitivities are similar enough to allergies that it's not too much of an exaggeration. So if MIL was offering the offending food, then I would say, "Oh, DS is allergic to that. Can he have xxx instead?" (and make sure xxx is enough of a treat to satisfy both MIL and DS.) On the other hand, if the sensitivity was not that serious, and I'm allowing the offending food in some contexts, then I would allow it in all contexts while visiting the in-laws. (Meaning, I don't like them to eat ice cream, but I'm allowing creamy spaghetti sauce or something like that).

FWIW, even though I parent almost exactly the opposite of my MIL, she tells people I'm an excellent mother. I think it's because I just don't allow situations to happen in which we would disagree--I compromise when I can but jump in to handle things my way when compromise is not acceptable.

DS1: 2/02 ROTFLMAO.gif DD: 9/04 blahblah.gif DS2: 9/07jog.gif and EDD: 11/13 belly.gif

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#13 of 14 Old 09-17-2008, 05:11 PM
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I think that while bending the rules are ok, be sure your kids know this is a special one time thing, and once you get home things will return to normal.
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#14 of 14 Old 09-17-2008, 08:02 PM
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Good replies above.

My two cents:

1. Set your limits. Spanking and physical punishment, favoritism, racism / sexism / hate speech, are among mine. Tell them that these simply are not accepted in your culture and that you would really appreciate it if they would try to understand and respect that. Some compromise is possible. If you think your kids could get cavities in six weeks, maybe ask for smaller servings and finish with a teeth brushing? I agree that your DH should do the asking and mediating, and he needs to present it as HIS ideas with yours, not like, "Sarahfina really doesn't like..."

2. Let the rest, TV, ice cream, toys, go. Honestly, it's a different country and your kids will eventually adjust to being at home again. Accepting a lot will help them see your point of view. Cheerfully tell the children, "Yes you may. We're at Grandma's, so you listen to Grandma on this one." Your kids will appreciate it and it really will go a long way.

3. Tell your children what changes and what doesn't. Tell them that X, Y, and Z, even though suggested by Grandpa, aren't acceptable, and give them strategies for dealing with it. "Thank you, Grandpa, it's very nice of you but I'd rather do this if you don't mind..." Let them know that although A, B, and C are off limits at home, that this is Grandma and Grandpa's house, so they should respect them here.

I think that if you live in a different country, the grandparents really deserve to spoil the kids like crazy for these six weeks. They waited so long and worked hard to afford it, even if they worked hard earlier in their lives.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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