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4 Tactics for handling parenting criticism from the in-laws

Love your in-laws but cannot stand all of the opinions they seem to offer up when it comes to your little ones? Unsolicited parenting advice is hard enough to swallow, but when it comes in the form of criticism from your spouse’s family it can really turn up the heat in the room. Should you turn the other cheek or politely disagree? Find out how to handle parenting criticism from the in-laws without launching World War III.

Disgusted Mother In-Law

Whether it is comments about what you let Junior eat or about your little princess’ bed time, it is likely that your in-laws are going to voice their opinion about their precious grandchildren at one point or another. Although you may have the desire to give them a piece of your mind, dealing with your in-laws this way may do more harm than good. Here are a few tactics to use when you find yourself under fire from your in-laws about your parenting style:

Tactic #1: Let it roll off your back

If you are looking to keep the peace, the best thing to do is not to engage. “To respond, instead of react to unsolicited advice, you can smile and say you appreciate their advice, and will consider the suggestion after you check it out with the pediatrician,” suggests Debbie Mandel, M.A., author of Addicted to Stress. Then, try changing the subject. There is no point in trying to change their minds just as they are not going to change yours on the spot.

Remember, however, that your words are not the only things your in-laws will hear. Mandel advises that you, “watch your body language (don’t roll your eyes) and reframe the situation with compassion and positivism – they love the baby too!”

Tactic #2: Speak up…respectfully

If you are not one to let the opportunity go by to speak your mind, biting your tongue is not the only option — although the delivery makes a world of difference. Before you go flying off the handle, try using some tact when responding to your in-laws’ advice. “While nothing can seem more aggravating that unsolicited advice from a mother-in-law, if you can try to see it through the prism of her desire to feel useful and included, you might head off a confrontation,” says Wendy Forman, Ph.D.

“Try thanking her respectfully for her interest and her wisdom before you explain that you might need to figure things out on your own because that’s the way you learn things,” suggests Forman. This way, you have fulfilled your need to speak up without stepping on anyone’s toes…well, gently, at least.

Tactic #3: Be willing to give a little

Sometimes an outside opinion may give you a fresh perspective on the way things can be done, including child rearing. Even when the lines of communication get a little crossed and the criticism seems harsh, try to listen and be open to making changes. You may find that there is some merit in the advice that is being given. It will also give you the opportunity to cool off after surviving the in-law’s disapproval on your parenting techniques.

Tactic #4: Have your spouse step in

If you feel that you just cannot take the parenting critique from your in-laws, do not respond directly to them. Take a moment to speak with your spouse and calmly express your feelings about the unwelcome comments. Ask your spouse to do the talking when his or her family chimes in with the criticism, because it may come across as defensive or inappropriate if coming from you.

Even if you feel like you are at your wit’s end with your in-laws and the uninvited parenting tips, remember that your in-laws are still your spouse’s family and they most likely have the best intentions. You can always pretend to consider the “advice,” laugh about it later with a good friend (and confidant), and ultimately do what you want. After all, you as the parents are the final decision makers in your little one’s life!

Join in our SheKnows message boards as readers discuss the best way to deal with controlling mother-in-laws.

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