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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to Be an In-Law (Not an Outlaw)

Visiting our married children is a pleasure. There is something about seeing them settled, married to wonderful mates, and now, they’re both parents. Satisfying. Fun!

Our family has always been a close foursome, partly because of our circumstances. We brought up our children on the mission field and homeschooled them until they went to college, at ages 17 and 18.

They adjusted to life in a university and moved on to different careers. Both are teachers—one in elementary and one in a Christian college. Each met the one God had for him in church.

I always told our kids that wherever the Lord called them, we’d get to visit. So, now it’s our turn to do just that.

If you are an in-law, here are some helpful hints for success, wherever you may live:
  • Respect the privacy of your married child and his family. They need to establish their own family customs, traditions, ways of doing things, and discipline of children.
  • Do not interfere with anything. They determine what is done in their family. It doesn’t matter if they want to do something differently than you did it—or not at all. It is their house and their family and their responsibility. They will ultimately live with what they choose to do, be it good, bad, or different.
  • Don’t call them early in the morning or late at night. Respect their time and their need for sleep. If you call your son or daughter, at least ask about his spouse and the children. Demonstrate that you care about someone besides your own flesh and blood.
  • Be loving to your son-in-law or daughter-in-law. He or she wants to be accepted by you. Even if you might have chosen someone different for your son or daughter, accept your son-in-law or daughter-in-law because your child chose to live his life with him/her.
  • Never, ever criticize your son-in-law or daughter-in-law to anyone. That is not kind or needful. (Even if he or she is an absolutely rotten individual, you don’t have to spread nasty stories about him. Be Christian and kind. It is never nice to gossip.)
  • If you live with your child and his spouse, establish private quarters for you and for their family, so that you can have some privacy from them and they can be a family unit away from you, should they desire it. If you sense that their family is having a “bad day,” stay out of their way.
  • Don’t be a “second parent” to your grandchildren. Their parents are responsible for guiding them. Children don’t need to try to please and obey four people. Only boss the children when they are left with you, without their parents.
  • Stay completely out of your kids’ marital issues. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Think of concrete ways to help out. If you can’t think what to do, ask your son or daughter.
  • Be thoughtful and giving. (Don’t over-spoil the grandchildren with gifts, though.)
  • Enjoy being a family, and make your family glad you’re part of theirs.

The biblical mandate to be kind applies to all family situations (Ephesians 4:32).
The Bible also says we aren’t to slander others (Titus 3:2).
We’re to esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
The Bible says we’re to die to selfishness (Romans 12:1,3).
Respect for others and guidelines for the family are all through the Scriptures.

Let’s be the kind of in-laws that our sons-in-law and daughters-in-law love. Let’s be people they're proud to claim as family.

Let’s be godly!


  1. Very good advice. Though I've never thought of myself as overbearing, sometimes it is hard not to chime in with well-meant advice -- but then I try to remind myself how I would have felt if my m-i-l had done the same.

    1. Oh yes, we all need to remind ourselves things.

  2. Being a mother-in-law comes with a learning curve. I as surprised that it was actually a learning process, but one God is ever eager to help us improve at. It's also a blessing!

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