When Your In-Laws Don't Respect You

When Your In-Laws Don't Respect You

Years ago, I taught my students Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall. One famous line from this poem is that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Most of us realize that healthy boundaries in relationships are often necessary-there’s a reason that sage Benjamin Franklin said that “Guests, life fish, begin to smell after 3 days.” Few relationships are harder to apply boundaries too than our in-laws and for good reason.

Our parents spend decades raising us, shaping us, guiding us. It can be hard for them to release us to our spouses, necessary as it is. Some in-laws simply don’t understand how much they can either foster a healthy and supportive relationship for their child’s marriage, or bring great division and harm to the union. The stress and pressure of poor relationships with our mother or father-in laws can cause frustration, anger, and bitterness-which can easily infect our marriages, and therefore our children. And sometimes, it’s our brother or sister-in-laws that can do just as much good, or harm.

As mothers, how are we supposed to navigate these complex relationships?

When I met my mother-in-law for the first time, I knew that she wasn’t going to play the kind of role I had always dreamed of. Years before I met her, she suffered several major strokes and was wheel-chair bound, living in a home for the elderly and disabled. I knew that my husband and I would serve more like parents to her, than the other way around. Still, she's been an incredible example of faith and love to me. Even though she spends her days in bed or wheel-chair bound, I have never once heard her complain. She loves her Savior and always pours that same love out towards others. But my husband also had loving older siblings who were more like parents to him, and so in some ways, I suddenly had 4 sets of protective in-laws to navigate. Their family is a close-knit bunch of loyal Italians and they have been generous and kind to us over the years and all the cousins have great affection for one another, but it wasn’t easy for me to fit in initially.

Guy and I With My Wonderful MIL

My husband Guy and I realized early on that we needed to become a strong new unit as a couple and that we could both firmly, yet lovingly, set boundaries with our in-laws on BOTH sides. That’s never easy. I have heard from hundreds of couples on this topic over the years. Many of these couples have varying issues from overly intrusive parents, to disregarding their parenting styles and requests, to extreme favoritism over their son or daughter as opposed to their new in-law. Here's a post about what to do when someone simply just doesn't like you very much.

If we choose to respond Biblically, I believe that most cases can result in peace and unity in our families.

Here are 4 things to consider:

  1. As spouses, we must communicate, listen, and be united as a couple about the problem with our in-laws and choose to protect our marriages above all else.

If your spouse is suffering or struggling, as a result of conflict with extended family members that should be your main priority. God instructs us to “leave” the home and authority of our parents and “cleave” to the new relationship we are building with our spouses. If your husband is not standing with you in solidarity over any particular issue, then the first matter of business is to work on your marriage-which may very well necessitate Biblical counseling.

Ultimately, if we feel secure and safe in our marriage and our spouse’s commitment to preserve our relationship and unique family goals and beliefs, than the anxiety of in-law pressures is greatly reduced. Sometimes, that means being grateful for your spouse and the new life you get to create together, instead of wasting time lamenting the dream of having ideal in-laws. Let go of the things you simply can't change.

  1. Ask yourself if YOUR PART in the equation looks like this:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)

We are to offer the same respect, honor, and Godly treatment of our in-laws as we are commanded to demonstrate to all people, regardless of how they treat us or our children. If you have sin in your own life in this area, it’s time to work on your part first.

  1. I like to take the confusion of making choices as a parent out of the equation by following this one cardinal rule:

Never make decisions based on FEARS or PEERS.

This applies to my in-laws too. Sometimes, moms over-discipline or give in to requests they don’t feel comfortable with when they are with extended family. We have to become very self aware and confident in OUR decisions so that we don’t behave towards our children or in-laws as a result of fear of what they will think or because we feel peer pressure to do things their way.

If this is a struggle for you, prepare yourself before you meet with them so that you have a clear image in mind of how you will behave as the wife and mom in your family, and do not give in to fear or pressure. God gave you authority over your home and children, and honoring how the Lord leads you is what matters most. Be authentically you, and if they don’t accept that, it’s okay. God accepts us just as we are and following His leading is what will bring us peace, not the approval of our in-laws.

  1. Just as I have talked a lot on my blog about being consistent, dropping the rope of tug-of-war with our kids, and training our children with loving-kindness, we can take a lot of the fight out of our in-law relationships in much the same way.

When my child persists over an issue and I have already communicated clearly with them, I don’t have to get angry, upset, or continue to argue with them. I can simply say something like, “Son, I understand that you want to stay up late, but as your mom I know that you need sleep and it’s now bedtime. Please go into the bathroom to brush your teeth and I will help you get dressed for bed.” They may whine and complain. And again, we can empathize and repeat our same statement of expectation, following through on our standard.

When in-laws become emotional, manipulative, or threaten our boundaries, we can respond in a similar fashion to them as we do to our wayward kids. We can calmly and kindly say to our in-laws, “I appreciate that you want to spoil our kids with sugary treats because you are loving grandparents, but John and I know that their bodies can’t handle it. We can provide snacks for you to give them that are healthy but still yummy, or we can give you a list of ones we recommend if you want to shop for them yourself. Just let us know which you prefer.” If they dishonor your repeated request, then you may need to follow up by explaining that the kids simply won’t be eating at their house. You don’t need to become embroiled or pulled into an argument or crumple under manipulation.

Eventually, it may be necessary to explain that if they simply don’t respect your decisions that you may have to come up with some creative alternatives-just as we do with our children when they don’t honor our role. It may mean that you need to take some time away from the relationship altogether, or put some more secure boundaries in place, but this should always be lovingly and clearly communicated-not an act of bitter punishment or unhealthy division.

The Bible puts it like this in Romans 12:17-18: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

As wives, we can either add pressure to our husband’s burden or we can cultivate peace with both sets of in-laws. Never underestimate the power of prayer and your own gracious spirit towards your spouse, your children, and your in-laws. Expect the Lord to prepare their hearts as much as yours, and ask God to give you wisdom. In-law relationships may very well be the biggest challenge you will face, but they don’t have to leave you in turmoil that negatively affects your kids. Keep doing the good parenting, entrust your commitment as a family to the Lord, and walk in faith that God will honor your desire for peace.

I’m not sure if my own in-law relationships on either side of my family will ever be what I dreamed of, but that’s okay. I choose to be grateful for the many ways that they have helped shape me and my husband. Seeking peace and pursuing it is the mark of a daughter of the King of Kings, and pleasing Him by our Godly responses to any conflict is the righteous thing to do and leads to blessing. When your mother or father-in-laws can’t be pleased, focus instead on pleasing your Heavenly Father, and you’ll never be disappointed.

SHARE:  What stood out to you the most from this post? How can you work more towards being a peace-maker or better communicate your needs as a wife, mom, and daughter-in-law? Do you have wonderful in-laws? Tell us what makes them so great!


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Our Bedtime Routine-Ending On A Positive Note Instead Of Chaos (And ANOTHER Book Giveaway!)

Our Bedtime Routine-Ending On A Positive Note Instead Of Chaos (And Another Book Giveaway!)

I’m pretty sure that a woman’s eggs can communicate with one another long before conception occurs and they can actually co-conspire with one another to say, agree that once they are born that they will stand in solidarity to fight bedtime with every ounce of their beings.

I wish I could say that my boys are unified in more positive ways, and sometimes they are, but the grisly reality is that they are most in sync with one another once 7 PM rolls around and they see me begin to gather their pajamas to prepare them for bed. Suddenly, the day’s sibling rivalries over ipads, who cheated in monopoly, or who is touching who in the car evaporate as they collaborate to Delay. Sleep. As. Long. As. Possible.

Anyone? Please, tell me this is not just my kids!

Bedtime used to be torture. I couldn’t take all the excuses for staying up late and at a ratio of 3 to 1, I was outnumbered. And then I remembered that the parent’s best friend is consistency. We lacked routine and so chaos reigned.  I hated ending the day on a sour note!

Over the years of parenting my 3 boys, I learned to approach bedtime with joy instead of dread. I loosened my expectations so that I could go with the flow while balancing a schedule the kids could expect every night.  I wanted that last hour of the day to be saturated in the goodness of God! Don't you too?

Here are 6 things we implement into our nighttime routine to make bedtime if not peaceful (Honestly, not much is ever calm and quiet in a testoster-HOME!), at least a positive time of day for our whole family:

1. Start Early!

If I want my kids asleep by 8 PM, I need a solid hour head start! As 7 PM rolls around, I give my boys a verbal heads’ up that it’s getting close to bedtime and that they need to wrap up what they are doing in the next 5 minutes. Then we all head down the hallway (or slither, or stampede etc. as boys often do)  to begin our routine!

2. Predictable Pattern!

The first thing we do is get into pajamas (on bath nights, we begin at 6:50 to get into the tub or shower). I lay them out for the boys to avoid jockeying over delays in selecting pajamas. I then give my boys any medications they need at bedtime and then read them a story or a chapter from a book. After that, my husband supervises teeth brushing and one last potty break before heading back to their shared bedroom.

3. Snacks and Water!

The ole “I need a snack” trick is as old as time. We let our kids have one last bite to eat while they settle onto the floor for story time and before teeth-brushing.  Guy gathers water bottles to put beside their beds so they don’t need to wander out and groggily ask for water at 3 AM. Mama needs her beauty sleep!

4. Read A Book, like Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time, By Mark Batterson and Joel N. Clark

My boys range in age from 3-8, so their reading levels are obviously different. I like to read “up” and am always surprised at how much my youngest son gleans from the chapter books I read to my older boys. If his mind begins to wander and he gets fidgety, he has some picture books he can leaf through, or Daddy will quietly read to him while I continue with the older boys.

Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time

My kids love books filled with action and one we recently started to read is, Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time, By Mark Batterson and Joel N. Clark. It’s the first in a series and follows eleven-year-old Jack whose “ordinary life is upended when he is whisked into a fantastical adventure filled with danger.”  It’s up to Jack to find “the Child of Prophecy who will both save the world and destroy it”.  This book is about true leadership and integrity, and is filled with Biblical wisdom that I want my kids to emulate. I love the positive character-building message, they love the intrigue and suspense-it’s a win, win! AND, Mark Batterson (The Circle Maker) has generously shared a copy with me to gift to one of YOU!! More details on how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post!

5. Affirmation (Hang in there with me on this one-it’s so awesome!)

One of the things we implement as part of our bedtime routine is an organic time of affirmation over each of our sons. It's a simple yet mindful way of breathing life into our kids while also changing our own mindsets to turn from any anger or frustration to believing the best about our kids and choosing to be thankful. It goes something like this as we help them get dressed for bed, or as we tuck them under the covers, or in the form of our nightly prayers:

"Oliver, you did a wonderful job remembering to put your plates in the sink. I think God enjoys seeing you be such a helpful son to me and your good example to your younger brothers. You are a sacrificial leader."

"Quinn, whenever I saw you today, you had a smile on your face. You make my heart happy with your joyful spirit. I bet God has some plans for your life that involve encouraging others with your kind heart and happy attitude. You are so special!"

"Oakley, I saw you building that fort all by yourself today. You are a smart boy and God has given you the ability to be creative like that. I know the Lord is pleased with you when you create things and use your talents. I sure love you!"

I want to encourage you to apply some kind of similar blessing in your daily or nightly routine too. There is always something we can be thankful for about our children! Give them a glimpse of God's pleasure in them and let them know how much you believe in them too! Imagine if someone spoke those kinds of words over you every night!

6. Singing, Prayer, and FINAL CHATTER

The final stage of our night is to turn off the lights and sing a song or two. Then we pray for the boys and they often want to pray too -nothing blows my mind more than whom and what they pray about-God IS at work in their hearts and this is the perfect time to see the Spirit working in their lives! My husband and I recently went on an overnight trip and the babysitter texted me to say that he had tears in his eyes over the prayers my boys prayed! Nothing better than that!

This is also the time when they really begin to settle down…and before we know it, someone’s little voice calls out for Mommy and the avalanche of feelings from the day, a secret fear, or some other meaningful glimpse into their hearts is revealed. There’s something about the quiet cloak of the night, and knowing that mom and dad are there listening, that cause them to share what is rumbling around in the depths of their hearts-whether it’s a worry about a friendship or a kind word of gratitude for their brothers, it’s often the tenderest time of our day! I used to want them to be totally silent and GET TO SLEEP ALREADY, but I have learned to both expect and cherish this time when they open up to me and their dad. Wouldn’t trade the confidences they share for silence for all the tea in China! Be open to these final moments of chatter-it’s a gift, not an annoyance!

Before we know it, the boys have drifted off to sleep….cared for, nurtured, affirmed, and heard. It takes time, planning, and expectancy that the Lord will help us to end the day well but it’s worth the effort! It's a refining process for me to be patient and dig deep from the Fruit of the Spirit to bless my kids instead of acting cranky. And I can use all the refining I can get!

How about you? Perhaps a GREAT book is just what you need to jumpstart bedtime! To enter to win the giveaway of Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time, leave a comment here and share with me:

What works for you and your kids at bedtime? Is nightfall a time of dread or delight? What do you think about our routine? Or, share with me which of Mark Batterson’s books you have read before?  (The NY Times Best-Selling, The Circle Maker, remains a favorite of mine!)

I will draw a winner at the end of the day on Wednesday, July 22nd, and announce it on my Mother Of Knights Facebook Page, so be sure to check back in to see if you won!  And don’t forget to pass this post on to others if it blessed you! WINNER UPDATE: Congratulations to Amy!! She won a copy of, Jack Staples And The Ring Of Time! I have emailed her and hope to hear back from her soon, otherwise, I will pick a new winner in a few days! :)

Also, this post contains affiliate links which means that if you make a purchase through the link, I earn a few cents from Amazon at no extra cost to you-I appreciate you supporting my ministry this way as well! Thank you!

Follow me on Facebook for more inspiration and discussion! Find me on Twitter: Amber Lia and Instagram: MotherOfKnights. Start pinning on Pinterest as well!