Being an ‘in-law’ is renowned for being one of the trickiest jobs in the world. There’s a very fine line to walk between developing a good relationship with your son or daughter-in-law and seeming to interfere. However, with a little common sense and a healthy dose of self-reflection, you can find that happy medium.
This article comes with a health warning! Any advice given here is not professional and is only the writer’s opinion (I have to say that because I suspect my daughter-in-law will read it!). That being said, here are eight tips that I believe will enhance your relationship with your child’s spouse.
8 Tips For Becoming The Perfect Parent-In-Law
#1. Accept you are not Number One anymore
Begin by accepting that your child’s new partner has surpassed you as the most important influence in their life. It’s hard to start naturally turning to their partner rather than you for advice and support. You may end up feeling a bit left out in the cold, but they must develop close ties with each other if their relationships are to become strong and healthy.
#2. Learn that ‘no’ means ‘no.’
It’s tempting to believe that you know best when making decisions about your child—after all, you’ve been doing it for years, haven’t you? But if their partner has very different ideas, this can be a point of friction. If you want a huge extravagant wedding and they only want a quiet affair, don’t nag or try to dominate—give in gracefully if they want to ‘squander’ their money on a dream holiday rather than a practical car, except that it’s their choice.
#3. Plan your visits
It’s a rare in-law who’s welcome to drop in at any time. Couples need time to themselves, and it’s irritating if a parent constantly arrives unannounced, especially if the dinner dishes are still in the sink or there are toys scattered around after bedtime. Unless specifically told it’s OK, always call first, and don’t complain if you’re asked to visit another time.
#4. Accept differences in behaviour
Every family is different, and the way we react in a situation may be very different from how someone else reacts. If you’re not given to sulking but your child’s partner tends to sulk, don’t make negative comments or judgments—stand back and let them work things out themselves. Only offer advice if you’re asked, and be very careful not to look as though you disapprove of the behaviour (or it can damage future relationships).
#5. Never take sides
This can be a very difficult one, especially if you feel strongly about or feel your child has been treated badly. If they’ve had a row, do your best to keep out of things and don’t weigh in with your views and opinions. Your child may want to unload their grievances onto you, but beware. In a few hours, they may have kissed and made up while you’re still feeling angry and resentful.
#6. Don’t compete with the ‘other’ in-laws
You may be best friends with the other set of in-laws, or you may never have met before. You may get on like a house on fire or be like chalk and cheese. However, each of you is different, with your strengths and weaknesses, so don’t try and outdo each other over things like spoiling the grandchildren or giving the most expensive gifts—it will only end in tears!
#7. Avoid criticizing how they do things
You may think your mother’s cookie recipe is best or that there’s only one way to wash the kitchen floor, but don’t impose your standards on your child’s partner. If you clean your shower every day and they only do it once a week, the world won’t end. And never, ever, criticize their cooking….
#8. Please don’t interfere with their parenting
Finally, you may have raised a dozen kids, but—unless you’re asked—let them find their way with parenting. Nothing causes more stress than feeling your in-law disapproves of what you’re doing, so tread gently and ask what would be helpful rather than offering specific advice (unless prompted). However, offers of babysitting are usually very welcome!
Of course, following these tips will make you the perfect in-law. Now, I wonder why my daughter-in-law is rolling on the floor with laughter…