Q: I am a stay at home mom and my eight-year-old son, Sammy, has some behavioral issues. He gets upset very easily and lashes out unpredictably. Through a lot of work, and therapy, he has gotten much better. My wife and I have learned that when he has a meltdown he is too upset to use his words. When we help him to explain his feelings, he calms down. My mother-in-law has always hated the way that I parent him. She constantly blames me for Sammy’s issues and says I’m too lax with him and if I weren’t so soft he’d be better behaved. I am tired of her constantly insulting me and my son! I want to tell her to cut it out, but I don’t want to cause any family drama. What should I do?
A: It must be hurtful to have a family member criticize you in your parenting, especially when you know it’s been working.
You’ve learned when Sammy “misbehaves” that he has a lagging skill and if you help him bridge the gap he’s able to behave better. Your feedback to your mother-in-law will need to be diplomatic in order to keep the peace, but also to be effective. Defensive people are close minded. If she feels criticized she won’t hear you. She’s from an older generation that parented differently. We recommend that you consider inviting her into a conversation about how and why your style of parenting works. If she understands and buys into your rationale, she’ll be less likely to offer unsolicited suggestions. If after explaining yourself, she continues to try to direct you, you may need to ask your wife to intervene with her mother or learn how to not care so much what she says.