How to Control the Parents and In-Laws (And Not The Other Way Round)

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By Ellie Barker

It was the look of sheer panic in my friend’s eyes, which startled me.

Just weeks away from giving birth to her second child she confided her biggest fear.

Perhaps surprisingly it wasn’t the birth or the prospect of sleepless nights only this time with a toddler too. It was how she was going to deal with her in-laws.

“First time round it was all about them. It was their first grandson and they were quite rightly excited. But during those first few precious days it was really only all about them and them bonding with their grandchild. It wasn’t about my needs or my husband’s or even the baby’s. I didn’t know what to expect then so just went along with it, but this time round my husband and I need to have some control.”

Psychotherapist and Family Consultant Christopher Mills says: “It is important parents and in-laws know who the boss is and kindness is the key. You are in charge of your own household. If there’s been any doubt about this up to now, having your baby is the ideal time to make it clear.

Being fair definitely means understand they’ll be popping with pride at having a grandchild and may well be keen, (if not a little desperate) to be involved. But try to establish pole position from the start by learning to say ‘no’ in a way that’s definite but positive. For example: ‘We’d love to see you but are a bit wiped out at the moment. How about Thursday lunchtime? That would be perfect.’ Give them the message you are keen to see them, but on your time not theirs.”

But shouldn’t you look after yourself primarily at such a delicate and often overwhelming time?

Mills agrees it is vital you look after yourself. “Otherwise how can you look after your baby? Your in-laws should know this. They’ve been through it before themselves. One way of looking after yourself is to constructively harness their help when you need it, without letting them take over. For example - I’m fine to get on with X, but could you possibly give me a hand with Y? That would be such a help.”

So what are his top-tips for doing all this without causing a rift or bad feeling, especially when you are exhausted and adjusting to a new life yourself?

  • Ideally talk it through with your partner before the baby arrives.
  • Discuss how to present a united front.
  • Discuss the characteristics of your parents, how they’re most likely to be able to help and how they might potentially dominate or get in the way.

Remember this is an incredibly good time to work out how you hold authority together for the welfare of your child and yourselves. That united front will stand you in very good stead in the years of parenting you have ahead of you.

Being firm but kind with your in-laws and your parents is great practice for doing the same with your child.

How have you dealt with any issues with parents/in-laws?