Question: Dear Luise: My mother-in-law (MIL) is very possessive of her sons and mine (4yrs Old). Everything she does is to ‘bind’ my son to her. She constantly talks about grandparents being able to spoil grandchildren and the parents are supposed to discipline. I know that this is just another ploy to make sure my son stays ‘into’ her and she wants to be the favorite grandma (competes w/ everything/everyone). My husband has a rose-colored view of her and does not think giving a child everything he wants will have any consequences. So I am the bad guy because I put limits down. How can I get them to see that I am not trying to limit anyone’s relationship w/ my son, especially since MIL would never admit her real reasons for wanting to spoil my son and I don’t think she cares about the logistics of not doing it. She only cares about being #1. S.
Answer: Dear S.: Oh, that’s a tough one. I have the awful feeling that your MIL is going to keep right on doing what she’s doing no matter what kind of limits you set down. You can’t be present all of the time she is with your son, and my guess is that she is going to follow her chosen path no matter what.
The only suggestion I have is to let your son know that being with her is a special occasion and her rules are very different from the ones you have for him. No one is right and no one is wrong…just different.
You can’t make her wrong or a manipulative battle will ensue. All you can do is to tell him that she made the rules when she raised his dad and now you are making the rules in raising him, when he is in his own home. That’s a mom’s job.
Let him know that every mom wants to be the best mom possible and wants her child to grow up to be a strong and happy person. Still there are many ways to express that. Yours rules come from your heart, as grandma’s come from hers.
It’s not too soon for him to learn that there are many different ways to do things. And that everyone tries to do the very best they can. Let him know that you feel he is going to be one heck of a guy when he grows up and that learning to follow the rules at home and seeing that they are different at grandma’s is part of learning that there is a lot in life to cope with and adapt to. Mention, also, that there will be even different rules at school.
You use a four year-olds vocabulary to explain this, of course, but you know how to do that. You do it all the time.
The most important thing is to not draw a line of combat and authority. Your MIL will just take you on and undermine you every chance she gets. Remember who has your son the bulk of the time and trust that your influence will prevail. Blessings, Luise