When we think about starting a family with the one we love, considering future interactions with our in-laws tends to be the last thing on our minds. We get so caught up in the bliss of the moment, or the positive pregnancy test, that the critical views of our in-laws seem far off.
However, these thoughts soon catch up with us. They become a reality and start straining the relationship with your spouse, ruining what should be the happiest times of your life.
It’s understandable. We don’t like to be told we’re doing something wrong by a highly-critical in-law—or anyone, for that matter. Our immediate reactions might be to shout at them or to let off steam to our other half's once they've left. What if I told you there were better ways of dealing with things that didn't result in a breakdown of your familial relationships at the same time?
Here are our top tips for dealing with over-opinionated in-laws when it comes to parenting.
1. Let It Go Over Your Head
If your primary concern lies in keeping the peace, and your relationship with your in-laws, letting their comments roll over your head could be your best option. With open body language that suggests you're taking their comments on board, such as a smile, and a short comment, make them think you're going to implement their advice at a later date, or ‘next time.' Who are they to know any different?
2. Politely Call Them Out
As much as in-laws like to be helpful, continually criticising you for your parenting skills is likely to be putting a strain on your relationship with their child. If you aren't the kind of person, who can let continuous comments go over your head, try sitting them down and explaining why unsolicited advice is unhelpful.
Make sure you do this in a polite, constructive manner that doesn’t make your in-law feel judged. Nobody likes to be criticized, and if you go at it accusing them of something, they're likely to close down and become defensive. Go in openly. Perhaps you could suggest kinder ways that they could communicate with you if they have concerns about your parenting skills in future.
3. Set Boundaries
Your in-laws might be an essential part of your family unit, but they are just that: in-laws. They are your children’s grandparents and deserve their right to behave like them, but if they’re overwhelming you too much with the responsibilities they’re taking on, it’s time to take a step back. You could even tell them that they have a couple of hours a week where they can look after your children and behave how they want with them, but after that, you need them to respect how you work.
4. Get Your Partner To Have a Word
There comes a time where we have to sit our partners down and tell them that enough is enough. If you’re not on good terms with your in-laws or don't talk to them regularly enough to handle the situation yourselves, asking your partner to ask them to be a little more polite with their advice might be the solution you're looking for and need. As such, this might come across better, as they are less likely to get defensive with their child than they would be with the person their child had married. They might open up and realize the error of their ways, changing their actions quicker than they would if you were the one to have a word with them.
5. Be Selective In What You Tell Your In-laws
Some in-laws fight to have their say about your parenting. You know they'll have a judgment to make about your decision, regardless of what it is. To try and combat this, why not become a little more selective about what information you're sharing with them? Continue to share big things that any in-law would like to know about their children, like rewards they’ve earned in school or a new skill they’ve learned, but be less obvious about other, smaller things, like the time they fell over in the playground or got sunburnt from playing out for too long. They may still make judgments, but with less information to fuel them, they'll be fewer than their current rate.
Be Willing To Compromise
While we’re almost never willing to admit we can improve our ways, sometimes being offered a new perspective can be incredibly helpful. Have you ever stepped back for a moment to consider if there’s any truth in what your in-laws might be telling you? Are you slightly too lenient on your children, or somewhat too harsh? Although their criticisms may be given in a passive-aggressive way, there could be some truth to what they're saying. Being open to compromising and making changes might give you the reason you needed to make positive changes to your family's lives.