How to Deal with Meddling Parents or Parents-in-law
It’s possible this scenario may sound a bit familiar: you and your spouse are having a family get-together, and Mom and Dad are being meddlesome and interfering. You and your spouse exchange glances and mutual eye-rolls and can’t wait for it to be over. Now, you think twice about inviting them over or asking them to watch the kids because they just don’t seem to understand that their actions are bothering you.
Here are some tips for dealing with meddling parents (whether they’re your own or your spouse’s):
- Do they know they’re interfering?
Often parents do things with the best of intentions, and in their minds, they’re helping you when in fact you find them meddlesome. Before you lose it and start giving them a piece of your mind, step back and ask yourself if they are meddling intentionally or not. If you’re not sure, engage in a general conversation with them and gently bring the situation up.
You may find that they’re appalled by the fact that you feel they’re interfering because it was not what they thought they were doing. Now is a good time to communicate openly with one another so that this does not recur in the future.
- Set boundaries
Have an open and honest conversation with your parents about boundaries. Let them voice their opinions, but don’t let them bend you to their will. When they come to your house, it’s your rules. When it comes to your relationship with your spouse, there is a certain line they cannot cross. The same applies to your children.
- Define consequences for meddling behavior
If you feel that your parents are meddling on purpose, it’s time define consequences for their actions. Explain why you feel that they’re meddling and what measures you want to put in place to make sure that the line is not crossed. For instance, your parents may listen to you when you tell them the things they need to do when babysitting your child, and then deliberately ignore them and do things their own way.
When you discuss this with them, explain the consequences. You may have to be a bit hard on them, so they can see you mean business. Tell them that you know what they’ve been up to and you’re hesitant to leave your child with them again because they don’t respect your wishes as parents.
- Give everyone a cooling off period
Confronting your parents about meddling won’t be a pleasant conversation. Afterward, it might be wise for you to have some time apart so that everyone can decompress and process what has happened. Then you can meet again for another discussion. If it gets too heated and becomes a shouting match, more harm than good will come from it.
- Be prepared to try again… to a point
When you’ve made peace with your parents, you’ll have to get your relationship pattern back to normal. But do so with caution. Forgive your parents for what has happened in the past but be vigilant to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Rather put a stop to it immediately than let it fester into another huge showdown.
- Know when it’s time to call it quits
Cutting your parents off should be the last course of action to be contemplated. It should only be done after due consideration and with the consent of both spouses. This action is painful for all parties concerned and should be avoided at all costs. However, for your sake, and for the sake of your marriage and your children, you sometimes must cut toxic people out of your life.
If it comes to this (which is seldom), and you feel you’ve tried everything you can, but you cannot see it get better, you’ll have to make your peace with the decision you’ve made and try your best to move forward constructively.