Grandparents usually mean well. Like you, they want your child to become a great adult, but their way of showing this can cause problems. Sometimes they may seem controlling, undermining, manipulative, overbearing, or critical. They can make you feel insecure, incompetent, or small. (Imagine my thumb and pointer finger getting closer and closer to each other.) You both have desires and expectations. Sometimes, they clash and the grandparents overstep boundaries they may not even know they’ve crossed.
It can be anything: food choices, entertainment, clothing, the holidays, discipline, etc. Things they don’t think are a big deal may be huge for you. You want a good relationship with your parents and in-laws. You also want your kids to have good relationships with their grandparents. In your mind, the boundaries are designed to protect that relationship.
So what do you do when the grandparents overstep boundaries?
1. Start by resolving in your mind the reason for the boundary.
This helps you clarify why it’s important to you. How does the boundary help the child and/or family?
2. Is there a bigger issue?
Are they overstepping because of fear? Do they fear their grandchildren won’t like them as much if they don’t give them more sweets or grander holiday gifts? Maybe they’re afraid their grandkids won’t know them well if they don’t see them “enough.” They may just think the boundary is unnecessary. It’s also possible they’re trying to make up for lost time.
You don’t have to know all the answers, but talking through them with your spouse and the grandparents with an open mind can help you address bigger issues.
1. Get on one page with your spouse.
Understand 1) the boundary, 2) how it was crossed, and 3) the reason for the boundary. It’s common for the boundary to be “more important” to one spouse than the other. But sticking to the boundaries (whether you agree on the level of importance or not) is essential.
2. Talk to the grandparent.
It’s generally better for the biological child to talk to their own parent privately, away from the kids or others, though both spouses being present is a good thing. You may start the conversation with, “I was bothered when you __________,” or “I was disappointed when I heard _______________,” or “I felt disrespected as their parent when you __________.” Notice the use of “’I” statements. You’re not calling them a bad grandparent or accusing them of being something negative. You’re addressing how you felt when a particular event happened.
3. Ask why?
Tone matters. Body language matters even more than words. This part of the conversation may help you understand if there are bigger issues.
4. Stay on-topic.
Focus on the main issue, not about whether you’re a good parent or how they felt at the last holiday dinner.
5. If grandparents keep overstepping, then adjust.
However, be specific about the reasons why. Perhaps you skip a few holidays or don’t let the kids stay the night with their grandparents for a while. Be clear. This isn’t about the grandparent feeling the same way about your boundaries or trying to be someone they aren’t. It’s about raising your family and creating the family culture how you see fit.
6. Search for areas of compromise.
(I don’t mean compromising the expectation to respect boundaries.) As parents and kids grow, boundaries may change. What kids can watch on TV may change. For instance, if what grandparents feed your children is an issue, a compromise may be that the child and grandparent can prepare food to eat together once a month.
7. Separate the act from the character.
The grandparent may be manipulative, controlling, or judgmental. Pointing out their actions and crossed boundaries is more concrete and tangible than calling them manipulative. Instead of saying, “You’re manipulative. You give them gifts you know we don’t approve of,” you could say, “When you gave them that gift for Christmas that we didn’t approve of, I felt like you were manipulating to get them to like you.” Remember, the goal is to help the grandparent have good relationships with your family.
If the grandparent expresses an understanding and a realization that they overstepped a boundary, then forgive them. Don’t hold the grudge forever. If it becomes a pattern, you can still forgive as you adjust. (See number 6.)
Your child’s grandparents may have strong opinions about boundaries, and it’s tough for some to respect their child as a parent. If you’re willing to stand with your spouse and have some tough conversations, you can help everyone transition to this new phase in everyone’s relationship.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-11-01.png5001200Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-10-14 11:05:572021-10-20 11:29:02What to Do When Grandparents Overstep Boundaries
Getting along may take time, effort, and patience.
As a newlywed, establishing and navigating relationships with in-laws can be filled with tension and pitfalls. I recall the first significant conversation with my in-laws when I felt disrespected and disconnected. The conversation went something like this: “Hey, you never call. You never come by. Do you not like us?” I remember trying to gather my thoughts. My first reaction was, “OMG! I want nothing to do with them!” From there, I had to stop and consider what they were asking for, not what I was hearing. They wanted to be part of our lives but were pushing too hard to make that happen.
You may be saying, “There is nothing to consider! They said something I don’t like, and there is nothing to think about and nothing we need to talk about, ever.” I get it. I really do.
And please hear me say this: If your in-laws are verbally or physically abusive*, this blog is not for you!
Nevertheless, for me, there were things to consider, like:
Relationship with my sisters-in-law (They had nothing to do with that conversation.)
My husband loves his parents and wants to continue to have interactions with them.
How will our future children be impacted by this distant relationship?
What about other family gatherings?
So before I chose to destroy (sever) the relationship, I sought to find healthy boundaries* and create appropriate distance between my in-laws and me.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you need some distance from your in-laws, too.
1. Understand that their family dynamics or interactions are different from yours.
I struggled with needing distance because my in-laws expected the same thing from me that they expected from their children. They expected me to call every morning and have dinner with them on Sundays. It took me a while to recognize that they didn’t have unrealistic expectations; their expectations were just different from the ones my parents had. Once I set a boundary of once a week calls and dinners once per month, things calmed down.
2. Be willing to create a relationship with the in-laws.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re just getting to know them or if you had a long-term relationship before your marriage. Now that you’re married, you are establishing a new and different relationship. As such, you’re still getting to know each other. Be open to a fresh start.
3. Their behavior probably comes from a place of care.
Usually, in-laws desire to feel close and connected. To you, it may feel like they’re smothering you and your relationship. Try to see the good in their actions.
4. Living away from them can provide natural boundaries.
I remember watching “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The main characters, Deborah and Ray, lived directly across the street from Ray’s parents, Marie and Frank. Deborah and Marie had issues. One of the main ones was proximity. Marie and Frank constantly barged into Deborah and Ray’s house without advance notice or invitation. I would tell my husband, “Couldn’t be me.” Gratefully, it wasn’t. Within six months of our marriage, my husband and I moved 12 hours away from our families. Truthfully, it was easier to deal with or even ignore behaviors because I would only be around them for short periods.
5. You and your spouse are a FAMILY.
It may be hard for one or both of you to set boundaries with family. Remember this, though: Once you’re married, your spouse becomes your primary family member. In my case, I do respect my mother-in-law as his mother. Yet, I know my PLACE as his WIFE. I am confident and don’t feel the need to compete with my mother-in-law. Your primary allegiance is to the family you created with your spouse. Standing up for them with your family or supporting them as they stand up to their family for you is crucial.
When you and your spouse said, “I do,” you united your families as well. Learning the rules of engagement for each family requires time, effort, and patience. You may have heard the old saying: “Good fences make good neighbors.” That saying also applies to families. When you have healthy boundaries, it can prevent in-laws from being outlaws.
*If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.*
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-9-01.png5001200Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-10-13 13:44:512021-10-20 11:36:325 Tips for Distancing From Your In-Laws
Fostering good relationships with your in-laws is a win for your marriage.
Marriage is usually a package deal… I mean, yes, your greatest priority is your commitment and love for your spouse. But sometimes a spouse comes with extras… like their family. At times, those relationships bring added joy and challenges, especially when it comes to your spouse’s siblings.
So how do you foster a good relationship and get along with your spouse’s siblings?
Of course, a lot depends on the context. How well does your spouse get along with their siblings? What’s their stage of life and personality? How does your spouse’s family function overall? These factors often affect what getting along with your spouse’s siblings looks like.
But if you keep the following tips in mind, you’re more likely to have good sibling-in-law relationships.
1. Have Realistic Expectations
You probably know how you want the relationship with your spouse’s siblings to go. Maybe you’re ready to adopt them as “brothers and sisters of your own.” And who knows? They may feel the same about you.
But your spouse’s siblings might feel differently, and those who are less eager to get close always set the relationship’s pace. If that’s the case, try to avoid taking offense. Remember, if you’re new to the family, there’s history that you’re not a part of. Rather than looking for that automatic connection, simply be gracious and open to their acceptance.
2. Look for Opportunities to Support
Whatever their level of connection is, adding value to your sibling-in-laws’ lives opens the door wider. Find ways to use your time, energy, strengths, and skills to support what’s important to them.
Support their business. Help with homework. Offer to help with yard work, pick the nieces up from school, or connect them with a colleague for a possible internship. Offer support without expecting thanks. Even if they turn down your help, continue to look for those small opportunities.
3. Invite Them to Be a Part of Your World With Your Spouse
Invite them over or out for dinner. Ask them to watch the game with you. If the context seems right, create traditions in your home that include their siblings, like the annual college rivalry game or the summer camping trip. Including them in your world builds connection and a sense of bonding.
4. Avoid Turning Down Invitations to Be in Their World
If they invite you to shoot some hoops, grab a cup of coffee, or go shopping, take the opportunity if you can. If you can’t, ask for a rain check and set a date. Your willingness to accept invitations speaks volumes about your desire to foster that relationship.
5. Keep Your Marriage First
Here’s the thing: You want to foster a positive bond with your spouse’s siblings. But in their eyes, trust is based on the fact that you married their brother or sister. They’re looking at your commitment to their sibling. And when they see you keeping your spouse (their sibling) first and foremost and holding your marital commitment as a high priority, that goes a long way. Do all you can to strengthen your marriage and devotion to your spouse.
Getting along with your spouse’s siblings involves an understanding that every family is different. Chances are, your family is different from your spouse’s family. It’d be easy to spot the differences and count them as deficiencies. However, to do so would be a barrier to creating a connection with your siblings-in-law.
Seek to understand them. Appreciate and understand your in-laws’ unique history. Let them get to know you. Respect the pace at which they allow you to know them. Relationships with your spouse’s siblings may take time; these tips and a little patience can hopefully add joy to the package deal of marriage.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-2-01.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-10-04 14:03:092021-10-05 12:33:105 Tips for Getting Along With Your Spouse’s Siblings
Try these steps to prevent miscommunication in your relationships!
Have you ever gotten frustrated with your spouse because they didn’t listen to you? Misunderstood someone? Been misunderstood? I have. We’ve all miscommunicated and misunderstood. As the poet said, “To err is human.”
At the heart of most relationship issues lies miscommunication. Whether it is parent to child, husband to wife, spouse to an in-law, or friend to friend, missteps in communication have the potential to devastate a relationship. Big time.
Communication is an art. But, how do we improve it? How do we lessen the misunderstandings in our relationships?
In his book, Happily Ever After, Gary Chapman suggests that we can master the art of communication with these three tools:
The Art of Listening
If you haven’t already figured it out, you can’t read minds. And no one can read yours. That’s really a good thing. (Flashback to Mel Gibson becoming overwhelmed when he can hear the thoughts of every woman around him in What Women Want.)
We can observe behavior, though. That starts with listening.
Dr. Chapman breaks down listening into five steps:
1. Ask questions.
Asking questions that show you’re sincerely interested in someone’s answers is far more effective than simply assuming you know why they do what they do.
2. Don’t interrupt.
We’re all tempted to jump in and finish someone else’s thoughts, but doing that is harmful to the conversation. Chapman writes, “The purpose of listening is to understand, not make a point.”
3. Clarify meaning.
We often listen from our perspective. Take the time to ask additional questions and understand exactly what they’re saying. Repeat it back to them if necessary. You can always say, “Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying.” Then tell them what you heard.
4. Express appreciation.
Thank them for sharing. You don’t have to affirm what they said if you disagree. “You are affirming their humanity, the right to think and feel differently from other people,” Chapman explains.
Now, this is important: You must complete these four steps to earn the right to move on to number five.
5. Share your perspective.
“Because you listened, you are far more likely to be listened to,” Chapman stresses. You haven’t interrupted, you’ve clarified what they said, and you affirmed that they have value. Now you may share your viewpoint.
The Art of Speaking for Yourself
A crucial practice when communicating is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.
“When we begin a sentence with you, we are speaking as though we have ultimate knowledge of a person. In reality, we have only a perception,” Chapman shares.
“You” statements can come across as accusatory and may lead to arguments. They are based on assumptions. Assuming is dangerous when it comes to relationships.
Beginning a thought with “I” shows you are revealing your feelings and your thoughts. You’re indicating a problem without condemning the other person.
Instead of saying something like “You never listen to me,” try saying, “I don’t always feel heard.”
The Art of Negotiating
If you’ve been in any type of relationship, you know compromise is king. We all think differently and have different experiences.
When you learn how to effectively negotiate, you can build bridges with others.
“Making a proposal is the first step in the process of negotiating. The second step is listening carefully to counterproposals,” Chapman notes. “Remember, negotiating has to do with two people trying to understand each other and reach an agreement that both of them will feel good about.”
“A proposal opens the opportunity for dialogue,” he continues. “The process of listening, understanding, and seeking to find an agreement is the process of negotiation.” When negotiating, it’s essential to get into the habit of making requests, not demands.
Your relationships are worth the effort to master the art of communication. We’ll all make mistakes and miscommunicate from time to time, for sure. But you have value, and the people you are in a relationship with also have value. Take the time to communicate effectively and show lots of grace. Remember, to err is human.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Untitled-1-01-2.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-09-30 11:39:072021-09-30 12:12:40The Art of Communication
Your conversations with them are teachable moments.
Half of parenting is staying a step ahead of our kids. (The other half is stepping out of the way.) Where do you step when the tough topics come up with your kids? Sex, drugs, rock and roll?
If only it was that easy! Try sexual politics, depression, and race relations. And don’t forget those frequent Big Cultural Moments when half of our country is screaming and the other half is rage-tweeting.
You can take that next step confidently.
Stay A Step Ahead…
1. Remember the Goal.
The goal is to have ongoing conversations with your children that teach them how to be critical thinkers and allow them to process their own thoughts and feelings. It’s not about having all the right answers; it’s about validating their curiosity and their ability to ask questions.
2. Remove Conversational Obstacles.
Sometimes these crucial conversations don’t materialize because we don’t make room for them. We’re too busy or too distracted. Be where your kids are. Be conversationally available. Some talks you’ll have to initiate. Some talks spontaneously generate. (Here are some conversation starters you’ll love!)
3. Relationship Capital Rules.
Invest the time. Build up the relationship capital you’ll want to draw on for those tough topics. This means you spend time together not angling for The Big Important Talk. Just enjoy spending time together. Don’t sleep on silliness. You might be goofing around, talking about nothing, when it suddenly turns into something.
4. Remain A Reliable Source.
Our kids have a sixth sense for insincerity. Can they count on you when it comes to the little things? Like it or not, our kids are always sizing us up. They’re watching us and wondering if we can handle their hopes and fears. They won’t come out and say they don’t trust you; they just won’t say anything at all.
… And Know When To Step Out Of The Way.
1. Listen. Don’t lecture.
Sometimes your child needs a good, firm “listening to”. Hold back and let them have it.
2. Respond. Don’t react.
Keep your cool when you hear something you disagree with. If you are dismissive or defensive, your child will shut the conversation down. Admit when you don’t know the answer and find a way to find it together. If the conversation is getting a little heated or the volume is getting turned up, be the adult; be the parent.
3. Investigate. Don’t interrogate.
Sometimes your child’s real question is masked by the question they actually ask. Learn to listen between the lines. Often, our kids need to work their way around to sharing what’s really on their minds or what they really want to ask. Be patient and leave some room for their thoughts to unspool and take shape. Ask clarifying questions. Ask questions that expand the conversation and invite your child to lean in closer, not pull back and withdraw.
Parents, By All Means, Teach Your Children.
You are the best resource for your child. Share your values and beliefs.Many parents underestimate the influence they have on their children. Research consistently shows that young people want their parents to talk with them about tough topics. Let them know what you believe and why concerning these issues. This will help them learn the process of determining what they believe.
There’s no shortage of voices willing to speak into your child’s life. Media. Social media. The kids on the bus. The classroom curriculum. The entertainment industry. Consumer culture. All of them are ready to step up and shape your child’s thinking on all the tough topics. What’s your next step?
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Untitled-5-01.png5001200First Things Firsthttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngFirst Things First2021-09-10 09:46:282021-09-14 12:28:17How to Talk With Your Child About Tough Topics
You can find the balance between control and independence.
Over the last 9 years, I’ve been constantly reminded that parenting is all about the balance between control and independence.
During the early years (3-8), your child is figuring out who they are while you’re learning how to parent them. It’s tough. And it gets more challenging when kids are trying to assert their independence.
Most parents probably want to raise independent, strong children who grow up, leave home, and are successful. We want them to start a family if they’d like to, and we want to be there for it all. Helping them find independence in those early years is where it all starts.
This is where self-determination theory can be helpful.
Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan introduced self-determination theory (SDT) in the 1980s. Self-determination theory suggests that people perform at their best when three needs are fulfilled:
Competence: People desire mastery of skills. When they are equipped with the skills needed for success, they’re more likely to take action to achieve their goals.
Connection: People need people. We need a sense of belonging and attachment.
Autonomy: People need to feel in control of their behavior and goals.
Highly self-determined people tend to:
Believe they have control over their own lives.
They are motivated, and when presented with challenges, they will work hard to overcome them.
Have high self-motivation.
They don’t depend on external motivators to achieve their goals. They will set goals and work toward them.
Base their actions on their own goals and behaviors.
They will take steps to bring them closer to their goals.
Take responsibility for their actions.
They will accept the praise or the blame for their choices and actions.
Those are all traits I desire for my family. We can help our kids grow in this by improving self-awareness, decision-making skills, and goal setting. Now, we understand what SDT is and how it can help our kids become self-determined. So how do we help them develop self-determination?
Here are a few scenarios where you can practically apply SDT to help your kids become more independent:
1. Dressing themselves
One of the easiest ways to help your kids gain independence is through dressing themselves. Let them choose what they want to wear, and don’t complain when they do. Sometimes we just gotta accept that they may not match. Yes, we have run errands with a 5-year-old wearing ladybug wings and antennas. No big deal!
Pro-tip: If you need their clothes to match for a special occasion, give them some options. There is still independence within boundaries.
2. Household chores
Ask yourself, what can they do?
Here are some ideas:
Unloading the dishwasher. My kids started helping when they were 3 or 4. (Don’t worry, we keep the knives out of reach).
Setting the table. Sometimes that means you might eat off the kids’ dishes, and that’s okay.
Helping with laundry. My daughter loves to fold laundry. Does she do it well? No. But she does it, and we are thankful she does.
3. Daily tasks
Some tasks need to be done in the morning or afternoon. Ask your child to help you make a list of what needs to be done each day. Where possible, tell them what needs to happen and by when but give them the freedom to get it done on their terms. They know what needs to happen, but they have the independence to determine how they do it.
Do you ever feel like your child wants you just for entertainment? I do. But that wasn’t my childhood. Sure, times have changed, but we can still encourage our kids to imagine and create. If they don’t know where to start, give them some ideas and turn them loose. It’s amazing what my kids will come up with when left to their own imaginations.
5. Weekly schedule
Life’s busy. My kids are busy with school events and sports. That means we try to plan out our week. We like to have a family game night and a movie night, and we often let the kids decide what those nights look like. We have also scheduled free Saturdays. They can pick where we go and what we do within reason (because the 5-year-old would have us headed to Disney). We set the boundaries, and they get to pick what happens.
Helping our children develop self-determination early will help them become independent as they grow. The process isn’t always easy. As they gain independence, you have to give up some control. Be patient, and remember that encouragement and positive feedback go a long way in raising independent kids.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-5.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2021-08-31 14:18:512021-09-02 12:19:505 Ways Self-Determination Theory Can Help You Raise Independent Kids
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-3.png5001200Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-08-10 09:56:592021-08-11 00:50:0025 Things Parents Say When It’s Time for Kids to Go “Back to School”
You won't believe how it benefits you, your spouse, and your relationship!
Compassion is important in marriage!
Did you know that there’s a whole science behind compassion in relationships? Seriously! Ok, bear with me, even if you’re not a researchy-geek like me (I promise I won’t make this sound like your high school chemistry book.) Because compassion is majorly important in marriages, even more so than you might think. And research has a lot to say about it.
Just like anything sciency, it’s essential to define terms well. And sometimes compassion, empathy, and sympathy get mixed up. Let’s untangle that.
Sympathy = You share the same feelings or experiences with someone else. They hurt, you hurt. You can sympathize.
Empathy = You don’t share the same feelings or experiences, but you choose to imagine what it might be like. They hurt; you don’t but can put yourself in their shoes. You can empathize.
And then we come to compassion. This is when you empathize/sympathize with someone (say, your spouse), and you’re prompted to show kindness in their situation.
They hurt. You empathize/sympathize. You say something to lift their spirits. Compassion!
So, sympathy/empathy are only the beginning of compassion. One study even suggests being empathetic is good to a point, but it can actually affect you negatively unless it’s followed up by compassion.1
So compassion is more than a feeling. (Classic rock fans, anyone?) Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, compassion isn’t really beneficial unless it’s put into action. One researcher describes compassionate acts as “caregiving that is freely given.”2
Think about this in your marriage.
No matter what your spouse experiences, good days or bad, you can:
And no, that’s not just a fairytale. Sometimes we settle, we coexist, we go along to get along, or we just try to keep the damage to a minimum. There are no perfect marriages. There are also no unicorns. So what? You can always Maximize Your Marriage. You know what’s NOT a mythical creature? Your marriage being BETTER than you could ever imagine.
To help you write the next chapter of your marriage story, each module features…
A simple, easy-to-understand video lead by marriage experts,
A download to help you personalize the key concepts for your marriage, and
Action items to transform your marriage as you go through the course.
You’ll have access to two marriage experts every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement. (THIS is what makes Maximize Your Marriage customized & personalized!)
Y’all…we should be doing this all the time in our marriage!
Why? (Here we go with the science again…) Research3 tells us compassion is good for you, your spouse, and your marriage!
Compassion toward a spouse predicts higher levels of daily relationship and life satisfaction for both people. (Don’t miss this: happiness in marriage goes up on a daily basis! Who doesn’t want that?)
Compassionate acts benefit the emotional and mental well-being of the person receiving them (in this case, your spouse).
The person who is acting compassionately toward their spouse also experiences a positive effect on their well-being, even if the spouse doesn’t necessarily recognize the compassionate act!
Bottom line:Compassionate acts do a marriage good.
It makes you a better spouse. It makes your spouse a better person. And it makes your marriage more loving, intimate, and strong.
Let’s consider one more reason why compassion might be one of the most important qualities in marriage. No matter who you are, most of us would agree that the world could always use a little more compassion. What if the real power of compassion in our world begins with compassionate action in our marriages and families? We know kindness is contagious.4 As they say: as families go, so goes the world.
So, inject some compassionate action into your marriage — for your spouse, for you, for the world.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Untitled-1-01-2.png5001200Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-08-10 09:45:532021-09-21 13:01:28Why Compassion is One of the Most Important Qualities in a Healthy Marriage