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When the in-laws are outlaws

My in-laws get a real kick out of telling everyone how they used to feed my first-born solid foods and dairy products behind my back when she was not quite six months old. To them, it’s a great story about overprotective mothers and their silly ideas. To me, it’s a slap in the face — and the reason why I no longer use them as babysitters.

Many of us would love to brand our in-laws as outlaws and ban them from our homes. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t generally go over too well, and it can be a major cause of strife in your relationship with your spouse. So here are some tips for keeping the peace with your in-laws. Think of these tips as a way to establish your own rule of law without starting a fight.


1. Let go of the small stuff.

Nearly all grandparents give kids treats. If your in-laws sneak your kids a chocolate before dinner or an extra slice of cake for dessert, can you just go with the flow? Unless there’s a medical reason for concern, try not to let an extra snack or two be the reason you’ve been disinherited.


2. Ask for advice you don’t necessarily need.

It sounds crazy, but if you can stand to solicit some unneeded advice from your in-laws, it’ll go a long way. “How can I get Junior to eat zucchini?” “What’s the best way to get the kids to bed on time?” Yes, the answer will undoubtedly point out the flaws in your current system, but by “giving in” on something you don’t care about, you’re racking up brownie points for later.


3. Pick your battles.

Figure out one to three things that you absolutely are not willing to compromise on. Maybe it’s your teen’s attendance at church. Perhaps you insist on bedtime even when company is in town. Whatever it is, you’re allowed to have rules that are inviolate. But make sure you clearly identify them — and:


4. Get your spouse on board before the visit.

When you figure out what matters most, share that information with your spouse, and get the all-important buy-in. Ask for support. “I know your parents love to buy gifts for our kids. But it’s really important to me that we stick to our ‘no toy guns’ rule. I need your support on this. Will you back me up?”


5. Let yourself feel the love.

Remind yourself that your in-laws are probably not actually trying to upset you. They’re demonstrating love for their grandchildren the way they know how. Take yourself out of the equation for just a moment, and see if that changes your perspective. It might — or it might not. But at least you tried.


It’s tough to share your space — and your family — with anyone. In-law relationships only add to the complications. But with a little bit of effort, you can come off as the bigger person.?


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