The relationship between a mother in law and their daughter or son in law is often one that is characterized by fraught and tense relationships. There are many reasons for this that psychologists have been debating for hundreds of years. However, regardless of why it happens, it can be very difficult to cope with - not least because sometimes it can be difficult to identify what she is doing to make you feel so worthless.
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Here, we identify 21 signals that your mother in law is overstepping the mark, with particular emphasis on your relationship with your own child. It’s good to be able to see these signals so that you can ask her to desist from that behavior in the future if it is upsetting so much that you no longer feel like you can cope with her behaving in that way.
Here are our 21 key signs that you have a domineering mother in law that you may want to approach about improving relations between you so she doesn’t act in this way with you or your children.
One way a mother in law tries to make sure that you and your kids don’t have a routine that suits you is to turn up any time of the day. This can be frustrating before you have children as it means you can never be sure of when you have alone time with your husband, but when you have kids it can make things very troublesome. Simply ask her to stick to your schedule for your child’s sake.
Of course, it can be that some mothers in law simply don’t listen to you or any other family members. This can be hard at the best of times but when kids are involved it can be impossible. It means that your children never know who to listen to, or worse, learn from her behavior that not listening to you is ok.
It can be infuriating, but another way that a mother in law can try to assert herself on your family and children is by only ever listening to your husband. If this is the case, and you know it to be that she listens to no one but him, you can use it as a way to get messages across to her about what is acceptable for you and what isn’t.
Another very hard trait of a mother in law who is trying to take over your children is that she never remembers what you tell her about how to look after your kids. Sometimes this can have very little repercussion, but when it comes to how you discipline them and for what, it can have larger implications.
One way that a domineering mother in law can make life difficult for you with your children is by putting you down in front of them. This can be hard as it means that you are constantly having to be the bigger person and not rising to her bait in front of the children. However, remember kids have to learn how to argue constructively and work through issues with others. If you tell your mother-in-law calmly that her words upset you, then she may lay off doing so in the future and your children will learn a lesson in diplomacy too.
Being told you are wrong is very hard to take at the best of times. But if your mother in law is doing it, and in front of your kids too, it can be beyond frustrating. This is because you know what is best for you and your family alone. Having the strength to consistently stick up for your convictions can be so tiring, but do try to stick at it as otherwise, she will always do so when it is not her place to.
One way that a MIL will often try to assert her power over you, and your children as an extension, is by pointing out all the issues with your home. This is exhausting and hurtful all at the same time as you have to stick up for yourself again, while also being made to feel like a failure. Remember, in times like this, that there are most probably problems in her home and that she is just trying to make herself feel better.
If you ask her to do something, particularly when it comes to helping with the kids, a person who has respect for you will often do so. However, if your mother in law is constantly trying to be the dominant one in your relationship, then she will most likely do the exact opposite with your kids, just so that you know who is boss.
People with control issues will often try to assert their dominance over those in their family. If you believe that your mother in law is such a person, this is probably why you feel a little out of control when she comes to yours and looks after your kids with you. A good way to cope with this is to give her a project that she can channel her controlling efforts into, without affecting you too much. Organizing the storage with your kids in their room is a good example.
Emotionally manipulative people are hard to work with. They often resort to emotional blackmail to get what they want and when it comes to mother-in-laws and their grandchildren, it will often be that you feel compelled to change all your plans just so she can see your kids. If you find that this is the case, just be upfront with her. Say that you had other things in your diary, but offer her times that do work for you and your children.
A common method that a domineering mother in law will assert her power is to give out backhanded compliments. This can actually be a behavior that is difficult to identify at first, but over time backhanded compliments can wear you down and make you question yourself and your decisions as a mother.
An extension of an emotionally manipulative person is a person who only thinks of themselves. When a mother in law is self-centered it can put a lot of pressure on you to keep them happy by ensuring that you answer to their every beck and call -- particularly when it comes to their face to face time with the children.
A reason that it seems like you are exhausted after seeing a domineering mother in law is that they never take your feelings into consideration. This means that you are constantly running around trying to make her happy as well as tending to your children’s usual needs. Call her out on this when you need a bit more help if she is around.
Perhaps amongst the worst of the signals that you have a domineering mother in law that interferes with your children, is when she doesn’t respect your personal space. This means that she will often walk into any room in your house, whether she knows you are there or not as well as times when you want individual mother-son/daughter time with your kids that may be overstimulated.
A mother in law that won’t let you forget mistakes you have made in the past is one MIL that wants to assert her dominance over you. This can be very tough when you have a family as it means that at any time she can bring up something that causes you to hurt. Not to mention the fact that it’s just plain tiring when people keep referring back to past issues, seemingly incapable of moving on from them even after they have been rectified with an apology.
A mother in law who is two-faced is MIL who is trying to take over your family a little. This is because you can never be sure if she is telling you the truth which makes you uneasy and therefore less confident as a whole.
If your MIL only ever agrees to things once everything has been sorted to please her, she is not only exceedingly domineering she is also setting a very bad example for your kids. Her behavior is nothing short of spoilt and so that is what your kids see as an okay way to act.
A MIL who talks over you, either at wider family gatherings or when it is just the two of you, is a person who is trying to assert control over you. Not letting you finish a sentence or not listening to your opinion is a common way for domineering people to stop a person from being able to control a situation.
If your MIL never apologizes when she has done anything wrong, however small, she is not only dominating your relationship by never admitting guilt, she is also setting a bad example for your kids on how to behave when they are in the wrong.
When your MIL looks after the kids or comes over to your house and starts a fight with you over nothing, you can be certain that she is trying to assert her dominance. She is trying to undermine you in front of your children by calling out anything and everything she can think of that she sees as wrong.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing your MIL could do if she is trying to take over your children is to interrupt you when you are disciplining them. This totally calls into question any authority you have with them and if you find she is doing it too often, either you or your partner will need to ask your MIL to desist from doing it.
Mothers in law can often be jealous of daughters in law. The jealousy between a mother in law and a daughter in law will often manifest itself by the mother in law consistently putting the daughter in law down in front of the husband or trying to make either one feel guilty for not spending enough time with her.
Dealing with a dominating mother in law is all about ensuring that you remain calm in all situations. You need to find a way of getting through to her politely but firmly that sometimes her opinions or ways of doing things are not helpful or wanted.
A controlling parent will often exhibit signals that they do not trust any decision that you make and constantly question you in any situation. It can be hard to cope with, but after a while, you need to have confidence in yourself as an adult and try to rise above their controlling nature.
It is very hard to handle in-laws that overstep boundaries as we do not like to cause friction between our families, particularly with an in-law. Therefore, it takes a lot of patience and understanding - as well as a healthy dose of diplomacy to work through issues tactfully with overstepping in-laws.
Even those with the best relationship with their mother in law will find living with them very difficult. Living together puts a strain on any relationship. Being in constant close proximity with one another makes brushing off small irritations difficult, which can make relations between you fraught.
Dealing with a domineering mother in law is very difficult indeed. It is not a relationship that will be going anywhere, so you don’t want to rock the boat by starting fights by pointing out when her behavior causes issues.
However, nipping such actions in the bud is perhaps the best course of action in the long term. Your relationship between you and your children is the most important of all, so if her relationship with them and you are affecting that, you need to rectify it as soon as possible.