All Things In-Law...

Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

Being HelpfulLast week I talked about things a DIL should never say to her MIL. This week I’m going to focus on things a mother-in-law should never say to her daughter-in-law. Just as MILs can frustrate DILs, DILs can definitely hurt and upset MILs. Let’s face it, this relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law can be challenging. As a MIL so many factors come into play –  fear of losing your son and your grandchildren, having your DIL see you differently from how you believe yourself to be, not knowing how to “be” when you’re around your DIL, and the list goes on.

It is important to stop yourself  from saying those things that may feel good to say at the moment, but will hurt you in the end (even when you are about to explode). It is impossible to take back things that come flying out of our mouths. Believe me, I know. I can think back to times when I’ve said things in the heat of the moment and it took my DIL years to get past. It just isn’t worth it! You have too much to lose (remember all those things you fear could happen – well, they can happen!) Let’s take a look of the five things you should never say to your DIL:

1.  My children never did that! or I think the baby’s hungry; that’s a “hungry” cry. (or any other unsolicited parenting advice). I know you’re probably trying to be helpful, but believe me giving her advice she has not asked for is not helpful. It can feel, demeaning and critical. Part of that can be the words, but part of it is the tone of voice and body language. Think back to when you first had your son. How would your words feel to you as a new mother?

2.  Here, let me help you clean up or Wow, what happened in here? No one wants to hear or feel as though they are a horrible housekeeper, even if she, herself, knows she is. Again, you may be trying to help, but this is not your house, nor is it up to you to “fix” things.  If your son doesn’t have an issue with it then it is something they both agree with and this is how they choose to live. If he isn’t OK with it, then it is a marital issue.

3.  I know my son. He would never (fill in the blank)! As much as you knew your son at one time, he is an adult now and many things about him – what he likes, doesn’t like, wants, doesn’t want, etc. – have changed. Yes, the core, basic person is likely still there, but so many aspects of a person change as they gain more life experience. Also remember you “know” him as a son…as a child. Your DIL knows him as a man. These are two very different components of the same person. This is when you have to trust your son. Trust that he has kept those things of importance and value. If he didn’t, it may have nothing to do with your DIL. It may have been his choice even before they were together. Sometimes we don’t see the changes as clearly until after our child is married, but that does not necessarily mean his wife caused him to change.

4.  I was over your way so I thought I’d stop by for a few minutes. No one likes surprises, especially your daughter-in-law. Whenever you take the risk of just stopping by -whatever the reason – you risk upsetting the other person. If you think about it, of course she would be upset. She and your son may be in the middle of completing a project, dealing with the kids, having an argument, etc. You stopping by catches them off guard and puts them in an awkward place. Always call and ask “when is a good time to stop by” – not, “is it OK for me to stop by now.” Be respectful of your son/DIL’s boundaries.

5.  You have no right to treat me this way or You’re so rude and inconsiderate. Although your DIL may have been rude and inconsiderate and she shouldn’t treat you that way, telling her so by confronting or challenging her will only make her dig her heels in and stand her ground – even if she knows she is wrong. Everyone wants to save face. Your DIL is no different. If you feel you have been slighted by your DIL there are better, softer ways of letting her know and of getting the situation rectified. If you’ve been slighted the goal is to fix things between the two of you and make things better.Confronting her is not the answer. Saying nothing is not the answer either. But there is a way to talk with her to let her know how she has impacted you, make the situation between you better, and end up feeling closer to her.

Before you react to your DIL, take a step back think about the bigger picture – what are you wanting long term with your DIL. Snapping or reacting will not get you closer to your long range goal with her. Stepping back, taking a deep breath, and create a plan of action that moves you closer to your goal is what will make the difference – and give you the results!

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