Nobody likes my mother-in-law. She’s rude, mean, and says whatever is on her mind without thinking of the consequences. She says hurtful things to the children such as, “You’re too short for your age.” “Tell your mother to clear up that acne?” “A boy your age should have better table manners.” How do we control her at Thanksgiving dinner?
My father-in-law is no help because he has selective hearing and only listens when the topic of conversation is football or politics. There will be six children between the ages of three and thirteen, and we don’t want their feelings hurt. Any suggests as to how to handle her?
This is a common problem with relatives when the generations get together. There are several ways to reduce chances for your mother-in-law to criticize the children. Invite your in-laws to arrive closer to the Thanksgiving dinner hour.
The shorter the visit the less time she’ll have to do damage. Ahead of time think of things to keep her occupied by asking her to pitch in and read to the younger children or play a board game with them. When it is time to sit down have a separate children’s table where the older children can help the younger ones with their dinner.
*Make a specific timeframe for your in-laws, say, 5:00 until 7:00. If you’re serving the dinner at five o’clock invite her to come “after 4:30.”
*Have the children greet your in-laws with pictures or other artwork they’ve made for them, which they’ll have to admire and remember to take home.
*When possible have a separate children’s table. They’ll love it.
*Keep your mother-in-law busy making place cards with the children; she writes the name and they decorate the card.
*Put someone in charge of making sure your mother-in-law’s wine glass is not being replenished frequently.
*Stick to the end time so there is no lingering after the meal by having all the children kiss their grandparents goodnight.
Lastly — but most importantly — between now and Thanksgiving be optimistic and talk up your in-laws. The probverb “Little pitchers have big ears” is never more apt then when it comes to family gatherings. Children overhear what grownups are saying about someone more than is realized.
Within hearing distance talk about your mother-in-law generously in a kind and loving manner. Encourage everyone else to do so, too.
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