Jokes about mothers-in-law…there are many. I remember hearing one about a Greyhound bus going over the side of a cliff, but there was no worry, because the only passenger was the man’s MIL. Ouch. Where do those punches come from? Maybe from people who have gotten fed up with that female in-law who crossed the relational boundaries. But it’s so easy to do, isn’t it? We may reason that
- we only want to help!
- we’ve been where our children are and we think we need to give them some good advice.
- we see our kids getting ready to make the mistake of a lifetime.
- they need help raising those grandchildren of ours.
The reasons for mother-in-laws interfering are many, but for the most part, they may be very unwelcomed from our birth children and our in-laws. It can do far more damage than it does help when it’s unsolicited.
What is a mother-in-law to do if she desires to have a good relationship with a son or daughter-in-law? Here are a few things I’ve learned (and am still learning!).
- Only give advice when it’s asked for. If you see your kids doing something you think is wrong, pray about it instead of speaking to them. Trust a sovereign God to direct them just as He directs you when you’re heading down a wrong path.
That would include little “hints” you might want to drop about your DIL’s housekeeping, lack of meal prep, or careless parenting skills. Or your SIL’s need to turn off the television, get a job, lead his family or attend church. Take it to God instead.
I’ve had to ask both of my girls to forgive me for stepping over that boundary once they got married! We’re so used to being “mom” that we scold, advise and reprimand our grown kids as quickly as we used to throw our arm across them when we came to a sudden stop in the car. Let’s fold our hands in prayer instead and ask the Lord to give them wisdom to make right choices.
- Don’t demand your children’s presence for ANYTHING. would mean Christmas, Thanksgiving, your birthday, Mother’s Day – you get the idea. They have lives of their own. They have a family to care for. They have burdens to carry. They have jobs and ministries. Let them live their lives. Again, if you feel neglected, take it to the Lord in prayer. Even if you don’t demand their presence, but you pout because they weren’t there…it’s just as bad.
Also, be sure you’re building that marriage relationship with your spouse. Have so much fun together that your kids will know that if they’re not able to come home, you both are fine just being together!
- Never drop in to your children’s home without calling ahead. “Yoo-hoo!” at the front door as you walk in could make an embarrassing situation for you and your children. It can also turn you into the lady that might be given a ticket to ride that Greyhound bus!
- Consider your child’s spouse. Think to your own MIL and how you liked or disliked when she left you out or included you, as the case may be. Love them. Talk to them. Send a text. Call them occasionally just to say hi. Pray for them. Treat them with respect and give them those kind of words.
- Allow your children and their spouse to be adults. Treat them as such, remembering that you raised them to be independent. Don’t see your son as your little boy. He’s a man. Let your daughter be a grown woman. Let go of those early days and let them establish a home as adults.
Remember the story of Ruth and Naomi? Ruth was said to have been kind to her mother-in-law. We may cry out – “My daughter-in-law needs to take a lesson from her! My son-in-law needs to learn to be kind to me!” But what made Ruth and Orpah want to go back to Bethlehem with Naomi? She had been gracious to them! Someone has said,
Maybe if we were more like Naomi,
there would be more Ruth’s.
If you’re guilty of something in this post, be humble and ask the Lord to help you. You might even need to ask your children and in-laws to forgive you for the way you’ve treated them. A humble spirit of repentance could be the very thing that will turn those difficult relationships around.
Let’s be more like Naomi today.