Follow up Questions to Learning to Leave Your Parents
(Volumes 35-39 in the archives.)
My wife’s mom tells us how to raise our kids.
She has private conversations with our adolescent girls and tells them how they should behave and what they should do.
Our kids are starting to say things like, “Grandma told me to do it this way, or Grandma thinks that I can wear this skirt to school.”
I am a responsible dad and my wife is very engaged in our children’s lives.
How can I help my wife stand up to her mom?
Your mother in law lacks awareness.
She probably thinks that what she is doing is normal and OK.
Many people have poor social awareness and are so myopic that their self-reflective skills are non-existent.
Add into this a controlling and intrusive attachment style and you have a person that feels quite natural managing other’s lives.
Since she lacks boundaries, you and your wife must become the ones who will draw lines and control her encroachment.
Both of you will need to be aggressively involved with a strategy that will ultimately train her to respect your requests.
Plan a special time with her without the children and include her husband as well.
Tell her about the problems as you both see it and ask her to respect your role as parents and that her parenting role is no longer necessary.
Expect that she will likely become angry, hurt and sad.
She may hit you with ultimatums and protest furiously.
She may pout and threaten to not have a relationship with you.
You must tolerate her protest and tell her that you do not wish to discontinue relationship, but if that is her choice, so be it.
None of us likes to be told that something we are doing is wrong and that we need to change.
Yet, for the intrusive in-law, they need to be controlled or they will continue to control you for the rest of their lives.
Expect your own pain and anxiety to kick into high gear.
Learning to have an adult voice around your own parents is one of the final steps you both will need to take in order to truly enter into your own adulthood.
I am a forty year old guy with a wife and 3 kids and when my dad comes over, he starts telling everyone what to do and when he starts talking about something he’s interested in, he drones on and on.
We all just tune him out (just like I used to as a kid) and no one listens.
We all smile and nod from time to time.
He’s clueless and oblivious to the fact that no one is paying attention.
What can we do?
Well it’s time to stop pretending.
While pretending and tuning out is something that we do in childhood as a defense mechanism, now that you are a grown man, it is no longer serving you well.
Sit down with your dad one on one for coffee some morning and tell him what is really happening in the room when he takes off on one of his boring monologues.
Tell him that you use to tune out as a kid and that really no one listens to him.
Tell him that you will no longer play that game and that you are desiring to become a full grown adult which will require you to be honest in your own home.
Inform him that he needs to ask permission to tell a story and he needs to pay attention to the fact that people are pretending to listen.
Ask him to tell you what within his childhood cause him to need to talk incessantly.
Odds are, he was lonely and people were disinterested in him.
It may have been his only way to feel included.
Talking and dominating may be his unconscious way of not feeling rejected and isolated.
Just a hunch on my part, but check it out and see what he says.
I hope things go well for you, and thanks for writing.
Milan and Kay