In more than eight years of marriage (that has included a short stint living in my in-laws' attic as newlyweds) and almost six years as very close neighbors, I've had my fair share of disagreements with my in-laws. Thankfully, most of the disagreements have been amicable, but I didn't realize that becoming a parent myself would bring up more "controversial" topics. It turns out, sleep deprivation combined with stress equals times you'll inevitably disagree with your in-laws.
Disagreements with your in-laws can be especially tricky when you and your partner aren't on the same page on whatever particular parenting topic has ruffled some feathers; whether it's sleep training or weaning. Which, of course, is why it's important you and your partner have the final say in whatever your in-laws are challenging. Whether you explain to your in-laws as a couple, or just check in with each other to make sure you're a united front, having the final word will keep that argument from growing or festering.
When I disagree with my in-laws about parenting, I've always tried to keep in mind that they did a remarkable job raising my husband and his four siblings. So, I have to give them a certain amount of credit and respect for their parenting skills. After all, he survived babyhood and turned out well enough that I wanted to have a kid with him, so they must have done something right. That said, parenting evolves over generations and certain things my in-laws did when they were our age just aren't necessarily our first choice when it comes to raising our daughter.
Their First Visit With Your Newborn
That first visit with your newborn is all the things. It's honestly the most wonderful because grandparents get to meet their grandchild for the first time, but also emotional and potentially stressful. Either you've just given birth and are feeling a little like you got hit by a truck, or you're an adoptive mom (like me) and you've just been handed a newborn and feel like you have quite a lot to prove as a parent (because you didn't grow the baby yourself).
Whether your in-laws throw a side-eye at your baby's name when they first hear it, or your mother-in-law seems to disapprove of your feeding method, the first visit is rife with opportunities for disagreement. But in that first visit, it might be best to summon all your zen for the sake of preserving that memory-making moment and leave any arguments for when you've recovered from your epidural or at least have gotten a big old sandwich into your belly.
When You're Sleep Training
In all our first-time-parent wisdom, my husband and I decided to start sleep training our daughter the week my parents were coming to meet their very first grandchild. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad idea.
We thought we knew what we were doing, so we stood our ground and we all sat around our 800 square foot apartment listening to her scream bloody murder. We should have nixed that idea long before it turned into a giant argument between my partner and his in-laws and, instead, tried again on our own. Instead of fond memories of that weekend, I still have terrifying flashbacks. Yuck.
When You Feed Your Kid Fast Food
I got first hand experience with my mother-in-law (MIL) when my niece was starting her first solid foods. My MIL was my niece's childcare a few days a week and my sister-in-law was doing baby-led weaning but hadn't fully explained it to my MIL except to say, "No spoon-feeding!" and deliver a bunch of particular food for each meal.
Sometimes your in-laws disagree with your parenting choices because they don't understand them. Baby-led weaning was foreign and seemed complicated to my MIL, but with a little more explanation she is now its biggest proponent!
When You Go On A Family Vacation
Oh, family vacation. How can something that should be relaxing turn so stressful so quickly?!
Before your vacation, take a little time with your partner to make a plan for your kids' meals, naps, and sleep schedules so that you have a starting point for the time away. Of course, keep in mind the goal is quality time together with your family, not more stress and frustration. If baby won't nap? Hand it over to a grandparent for extra snuggles and try again next time.
Anytime You're At A Large Family Event
A big family event (like a wedding or a milestone birthday for a relative) can be tough to navigate with little ones and in-laws. Big family events often take everyone off their schedules and they usually bring added stress that can lead to disagreements. Add fancy clothes that always get spit up on or smudged with crumbs before the event even kicks off, and everyone is already on edge.
For this one, your number one goal is not to get into a snark fest with your mother-in-law while the wedding videographer is anywhere nearby!
When You're Choosing Childcare
When your in-laws were parenting little ones, the go-to childcare option and cultural norm was for the mom to stay home. Now the options are broader and families look and operate differently, so you might have different opinions from your in-laws about how your family will approach childcare.
If they seem interested, explaining your decision and how it will work for your family might go a long way. However, if that just doesn't seem to matter (or you know it won't matter), you can explain it's your family's day-to-day and your decision for your child, not theirs.
When You Feed Your Kid The Tiniest Amount Of Suger
I've just spent three weeks with my parents (not even my in-laws, you guys) and for the first week, every time I turned around, my daughter had a cookie in her hand.
While they firmly believed they were fulfilling their grandparent duty of keeping my child "happy," my husband and I have had to explain firmly a few times that our daughter's diet doesn't include cookies for breakfast or candy canes as an afternoon snack. They've (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to nix the dessert after every meal (and seven times in between), and we've agreed that moderation — like hot chocolate after a sledding excursion — is something we can get on board with.
When You Discipline Your Kid...
Whether they think you're too strict or too soft, discipline is another passionate subject that can bring disagreements with your in-laws. When kids are older, sometimes postponing discipline until you're back at your own home is a way to avoid conflict, but when your toddler is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the living room because they aren't allowed to climb the stairs or eat 72 crackers from the cheese board, it's hard to avoid.
If possible, take your little one to a private place and discipline them without an audience, which will likely be more peaceful for everyone.
...And When They Discipline Your Kid
Especially if you don't agree with their methods. A spanking or harsh word can send any mom into mama bear mode if that's not the way you discipline your child. Start by taking several deep breaths, and then give a firm explanation of your discipline methods and request that the discipline they used not be repeated.
Again, making sure you and your partner are on the same page with what methods you will use can go a long way in helping in-laws get on board.