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10 things a mother-in-law should never do

Posted May 25

You’ve marked so many milestones in your child’s life: first tooth, first word, first day of school, activities and awards, graduations … and then one day it happens. Your child meets The One and gets married. The engagement is full of ups and downs while two families get to know each other, compromise and plan a wedding all can enjoy. Then after the wedding day comes the rest of life.

Marriage is a whole new world for your son or daughter, but it’s an adjustment to be “the in-law” too. It’s easy to misstep as everyone gets used to the new dynamics. Here are 10 things to avoid doing after you welcome a new person into your family:

1. Criticize your grown child’s spouse or his or her family

Tread carefully when talking about your beloved son or daughter’s spouse’s faults or weaknesses. Even if your daughter brought up her frustration with her husband’s gift-giving fails, for instance, don’t jump in and agree. Ask some questions so she can talk, and listen.

2. Give unsolicited advice

If you disagree with how your daughter-in-law keeps house or how your son-in-law parents, do not go in and give any pointers on how to do it better. Just don’t. And if your child asks for advice, step very carefully. Limit the advice and the detail and length, and be as neutral as possible. A good bet may be to suggest your child ask a trusted person who is outside the family, such as a church leader.

3. Ignore their wishes about your time with the grandchildren

If they want you to take the “spoiling” down a notch, listen. Dole out the sugar a little more sparingly; get the children to sleep at a time they’re used to; give them fewer or less extravagant presents. If they want you to stop disciplining as if you’re the parent, try to respect that too. Have some simple and reasonable expectations for your grandchildren but let some things slide.

4. Help out with the kitchen, laundry or organization

Unless your daughter-in-law specifically asks you to fold the laundry, reorganize her cabinets or go shopping, do not step in and do it. She will interpret your actions as you thinking her house is a mess and she isn’t a good enough homemaker.

5. Hover

If you’ve been a helicopter mom, the wedding of your beloved child should have been time for you to power down permanently. Don’t stop by all the time, don’t call and text multiple times a day. Reach out, put out feelers to find out what amount of contact seems welcome, but don’t intrude.

6. Play favorites

Sure, you have raised your child, and you may love spending time with him or her. But now she comes with a brand-new partner. It may take a while to feel the same about your son-in-law or daughter-in-law as you do about your child, but embrace your new son or daughter and make him or her feel as valued as the child you have loved since infancy.

7. Compare their life to the way it used to be

Whether you’re comparing your son’s married life, with new habits and blended interests, to his single life as an adult bachelor or as a teen, or his married life to your own married life at similar stages (your newlywed time, your young-parents experience, etc.), you’re not doing anyone any favors. Comparing pretty much doesn’t help anything, so take today as it is.

8. Blame

Much like comparing, blaming doesn’t make anything better. It just shows you’re willing to throw one person under the bus to make someone else, very likely your biological child, appear better. Even when your child is the one doing the blaming, try to help him or her get back to a place where he or she can work together with the spouse to improve a situation. Look for the positive and for the ways your daughter-in-law or son-in-law is doing something right and build on that.

9. Share details on social media

Whether it’s information about your children traveling somewhere, their goals as a couple or family, photos of the grandchildren or anything else that’s remotely personal, be sure you know what they are willing for you to post on social media about them. If they are careful about putting photos of their children online or using their names, respect that. You may need to ask at the outset what they expect and want out of your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram use when it comes to them.

10. Wait for your son’s or daughter’s spouse to reach out

Don’t invade and presume, but do regularly invite your son-in-law or daughter-in-law to connect in some way. You can surprise him or her by calling his or her phone instead of your child’s; you can invite them to lunch for some one-on-one time; you can take the time to get to know his or her family better. Show you’re interested in a relationship, without judgment, without expectations, and let it develop organically.

Cathy Carmode Lim is the founder of RatedReads.com, a website that reviews books and gives them ratings according to content. She is also a copy editor and blogs at LifeandLims.com.

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