Question: Dear Luise: I have a budding problem with my mother-in-law that I don’t know how to handle. We have a darling four year-old son who has heard us using four letter words and started mimicking us. Not the “f- word” but damn and shit and things like that. We thought it was cute but he said them in front of my husband’s mother, and all h- – – broke loose. She’s a schoolteacher and thinks he’s going to shame the whole family when he starts kindergarten. She’s demanding that we get it stopped immediately. We both realize we were out to lunch here, and that she is probably right, but we hate letting her order us around. Once she gets away with that, where will it end? Help! Betty W.
Answer: Dear Betty: Get out your bib and tucker. It’s time to eat crow. You haven’t described your mother-in-law as previously interfering with how you’re raising your son, and you also agree that her intervention was merited. Go to her and apologize for being thoughtless about the possible repercussions of such an attitude on your parts. Ask her if she has any suggestions about how to remedy the situation and generally calm her down the best you can. Let her know that you respect her input in this instance.
You also need to talk with your son and advise him that both of you have been using some pretty dumb words when there are other words that would have worked better. Ask him to help you think of better words and to work at using them along with you. Let him know that Grandma is pretty smart and she has suggested it would be a wiser way to talk and more “grown up”. Then, to keep her from coming down on you like that again, start using your heads, both of you. You are parents. Your son looks up to you and admires your example. Start working a little harder at being the role model he deserves. And last but not least, lighten up because this isn’t the only mistake you are going to make. Blessings, Luise