Don’t Chase Your Kids Away With a Stick

Or, A Few Common Stumbling Blocks of the Mother-in-Law

Here are a few thoughts for the mother-in-laws among us.

Don’t make an idol out of your family get-togethers. Laying a big load of expectations on the kids will kill the fun of being together, whether it is a summer vacation on the beach or your Christmas celebrations. If you let it be known that “We’ve always done Christmas THIS way, and we will do it again this year OR ELSE” you are making sure they will hate every minute of it, or they will totally bow out to make a statement that you cannot be tyrannical.  By insisting on time in this way, you may as well chase them away with a stick. They will run away as fast as they can.

Remember that they are trying to establish a new household. Give way to their decisions and honor them for it. At the same time, make it clear that you would love to have them for Christmas, and that you will accommodate their schedule and other commitments to keep it easy for them.

Set them free to establish their own traditions and to make their own decisions about vacations and celebrations. Ask them what will work for them. Don’t set things up and announce to them where and when they will be for what. Don’t be a fusser by complaining that they never stay long enough. This puts pressure on them and makes them miserable. You don’t want them to view time at your house as punishment or something they simply endure to keep the so-called “peace.”

Learn to share. Don’t keep tabs on how much time they are spending with the other set of grandparents/parents. This is guilt tripping, and guilt is never a good motivator. This might pressure them to stay away from both sets of parents to keep everyone at the same level. And of course, never complain to the other mother-in-law about how much time you get. This is deadly, deadly, deadly.

Don’t be critical; it only brings tension into the relationships. Your kids want to be accepted and loved. They want their parents’ approval and appreciation, not a list of short-comings. I think Spurgeon is the one who said that fault-finding is the easiest thing in the world. It does not require any sort of gift of the Spirit. However, overlooking faults takes grace. So get grace and don’t discourage your kids by always finding fault. Remember that they may be getting grace to deal with YOU.

Finally, confess your sins, keep your sense of humor, don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t attribute motives or keep a record of wrongs or get your feelings hurt so easily. Pray. Give your concerns to God and ask Him to deal with your attitudes. Are you being petty? Or is this a serious concern? If the latter, then pray about it some more and ask God to give you a clear opportunity to discuss it. But then don’t go looking for one.

Let’s wrap up with a couple of Proverbs:

“A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” (12:16).

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (19:11).

And from 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Chase Your Kids Away With a Stick

  1. I love having a variety of “bloggers” writing now. 🙂

    When my daughter was only three weeks old, we HAD to go to my in-laws for Christmas. We ended up getting caught in near blizzard conditions most of the way back home. I decided then it wasn’t worth the travel.

    So… we gave the in-laws Thanksgiving and Easter and my own mom (who was much better about such things) knew we would visit when we could. This kept up for about twenty years with bad feelings every Christmas, even though the weather could be very bad at that time.

    When my daughter married and moved to another part of the country, I remembered what I had gone through and told her before the wedding that they did not have to appear at each Holiday table. We just have fun together when my daughter, son-in-law, and four grandchildren (age five and under) arrive at the door, anytime. I never want to burden my children with the burden I carried.

  2. The Lord is good! Thank you for this post. I’ve been praying for wisdom about family relationships. In the last year and a quarter I’ve gained two dear daughters-in-law. We live outside the US, where our kids are, so visiting is neither easy nor frequent. I don’t struggle so much with trying to capture their time and attention at holiday times, as I do with mourning the loss of our daily family life. I miss my kids!

    We raised our boys to leave and cleave – I’m very blessed by the godly extension of our family by daughters coming into it. I’ve noticed my daughters-in-law have frequent contact with their mothers. Our sons are good communicators, but they are sons and so don’t really think to provide the details moms love to hear about. I don’t keep asking questions for info as I did before they married.

    I offer this perspective to daughters-in-law. Be kind and generous to your mother-in-law in sharing scenes of your family life, especially if you live far away.

  3. Question:

    I have recently had the misfortune of offending and hurting my non believing mother-in-law. I wrote her a letter apologizing and explaining the unintentional and sinful intentional aspects that offended her, my husband was very pleased with the letter and so was I. I got a reply that was not welcoming to making amends. We are going home for Thanksgiving and will be staying with her four days and three nights.
    What biblical advise or actions would you encourage me to have during this time and more importantly in a week? Any books I could look at?

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