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MomTalk.com November 17, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Trouble - i n - Laws: Good Enough Moms

A three-generational column by Dr. Marti Erickson
with her daughter, Erin Erickson Garner, and her mom, Betty Farrell

Q: My husband & I have been married for almost 7 years. Our wonderful son just turned 3 and our daughter is due next month. We live about 1/2 mile from my in-laws and I fear that my meddling mother-in-law will constantly find things wrong with my daughter as she has done with our son from day one.

A three-generational column by Dr. Marti Erickson
with her daughter, Erin Erickson Garner, and her mom, Betty Farrell

Q: My husband & I have been married for almost 7 years. Our wonderful son just turned 3 and our daughter is due next month. We live about 1/2 mile from my in-laws and I fear that my meddling mother-in-law will constantly find things wrong with my daughter as she has done with our son from day one. At first he wasn't getting enough milk, then he didn't roll over soon enough, didn't clap his hands, walk or talk soon enough. Just after my son was born she came over to my house every single day, walking into my house without knocking. She constantly worries about his development, yet I have caught her driving around with him without a car seat. I do not want to start a war with my in-laws. I am close to my father-in-law, who is not pushy or full of advice like his wife. My husband has only stuck up for me once when it came to our son and that was because I was crying after his mother kept criticizing our son's language development. I have always been one to stick up for myself, and I don't understand why I become so passive with her. How can I deal with this overbearing woman?

Erin: Wow--a 3-year-old in the car without a car seat! That's a zero-tolerance issue; it's unsafe and it's illegal. So the first thing I suggest is that you tell your mother-in-law in no uncertain terms that she can not take your son in her car unless he is properly strapped in at all times. You and your husband have the right and the responsibility to set those conditions, and surely your husband will stand with you on this.

Marti: Now, about your husband! I suggest you find a quiet time to have a heart-to-heart talk with him. Start by letting him know you understand that it's difficult for him to stand up to his mother. But now that he's an adult and a father, he needs to stand with you and for the safety and well-being of your children. If he can't do that, you may need to seek professional counseling before this problem gets worse. (When he does stand with you, be sure to let him know you appreciate his support and admire his strength!)

Betty: For both you and your husband, I think you should sit down and talk candidly with both of his parents about this problem --maybe over a cup of coffee and definitely without the kids around. It sounds like his father might be a good ally to help you keep the mother in check.

All: We all three agree that a conversation with your in-laws ought to go something like this (with your husband, not you, taking the lead since it's his mother who is posing the problem):

We appreciate your involvement in our children's lives and we want to make sure the kids grow up to have a positive relationship with you.
We worry that frequent negative remarks from Grandma will undermine that important connection
It's OK for either of you to redirect a grandchild's behavior when necessary (give some positive examples), but it's not OK to criticize the children for their rate of development
If you ever have a concern about our parenting, ask yourself whether it's serious enough that it must be shared. If it is, please do so privately --not in front of the children.

While you're at it, you also would be wise to head off those drop-by, walk-right-in visits before your next baby is born. How about saying, "Because we're going to need a lot of rest with a new baby and a three-year-old, we're asking everyone to call us before they come over to make sure it's a convenient time for a visit." Then lock your door so they will need to ring the bell.


Marti Erickson, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and director of the Harris Training Programs at the University of Minnesota. A well-known public speaker, writer, and media commentator, Marti also is the mother of two adult kids and three young grandchildren.

Erin Erickson Garner, Marti's daughter, is a writer and a specialist in maternal and child health. She currently is home with her two young children except for Saturdays, when she and her mom co-host the Good Enough MomsTM radio show on WFMP-Radio, FM107.1 in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Betty Farrell, Marti's mom, lives in Houston, TX, and is known fondly as "Grandma Betty" to Erin and her kids.



Categories: Advice, Ideas & Stories, Family,


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