How Do You Deal With a Mother-in-law Who Simply Doesn't Respect Boundaries?

How Do You Deal With a Mother-in-law Who Simply Doesn't Respect Boundaries?

You have tried your best, but she simply refuses to honour your need for space and boundaries. What should you do? Here's how to deal with a meddling mother-in-law when severing ties is not an option...

shaved head

Like the mum who found her baby with a shaved head, be firm about your beliefs. (Image source: File photo)

How to set boundaries to prevent a mother-in-law from meddling

Parenting is challenging enough, even without relatives trying to interfere or manipulate how you raise your children. Though they may mean well, they can overstep boundaries.

“Communication is key when someone steps over your own personal or parenting boundaries,” parenting expert Julie Romanowski in Vancouver tells Global News Canada. “In most cases, other people do not know or are not certain what each individual person’s boundaries are. It is each person’s responsibility to speak up and communicate what they are and how you would like to have others support you.”

Infringing upon the limits you set can make you feel that they don’t respect you as a person.  

You can feel undermined or unable to confidently make decisions involving your family.

There are ways to keep a mum-in-law from being too involved, without sacrificing the possibility of building a good relationship with them in the future.

Clinical Psychologist Samantha Rodman suggests this approach in an article on the Huffington Post:


Define the relationship you want to have with them. 

Be honest with yourself. Do you want to simply be civil or “get along” with them? Or do you want to build a deep, meaningful friendship with your in-law?

Honestly decide if you can attain this type of relationship

Be objective about it. Is your in-law too difficult that you can’t see a better relationship with them? Being realistic helps you manage your expectations and frustrations.

Decide how to move forward

Cutting ties is not an option for many Asian families, as grandparents are an integral part of children’s upbringing. Reach out to close friends and family for advice. They know you best.

Rethink your goals

If you do decide to try and build a relationship with them, it helps to revise your goals. Keep them simple. It can be striving not to argue about little things when they visit. Or to stand up for yourself without hurting their feelings.

Set boundaries

Boundaries can be physical (visiting or calling on the phone at certain times a week only) or emotional (telling them you are not comfortable with them criticising your decisions or parenting style).

Don’t take everything too personally

Whether or not it works out, try not to think of everything as an attack on you as a person. Simply try to understand that their attitude and biases stem from their own upbringing and life experience.

It will take time for things to change. Just keep striving toward your goals, whatever they might be.

How to cope with a mother-in-law who insists on testing boundaries

It can get frustrating when nothing seems to work. You might end up lashing out or consistently arguing with them. This strained relationship can cause lasting damage to your entire family dynamic.

In this situation, here’s how you can deal with it:

shaved head

Image source: Youtube

Be firm

Don’t budge. Standing your ground is often the only option, even if in-laws can take this against you. 

“My mother-in-law puts pressure on my husband and I to go to church every chance she gets. While I wouldn’t mind going to church, it needs to be on my accord and not because she wants to save my soul,” confides Phoebe, 37, a newlywed in an interview with relationship expert Yvonne K. Fulbright.

Assert your authority

Though their input is welcome, you are the decision-maker in the family. Don’t let them forget this. In-laws may have strong opinions about how kids should be raised, but they are from a different generation.

Call them out

You can still put them in their place respectfully. Reassure them of their value in your life, but remind that their behaviour, like constantly criticising you, makes it difficult for you to want them to be involved in raising your kids.

Re-evaluate boundaries

If the boundaries you have set don’t seem to work, you can try to compromise. If not budging only causes further strain, try to understand why they want to be a part of your life. Do they feel undervalued or neglected?

Distance yourself

Try to minimise interaction. Be with them only when your spouse is present. Don’t sacrifice your emotional and mental health by being upset with the situation constantly. Try to partially cut them off, so that they won’t be such a big factor in your life.

Try to minimise the help you accept from them

Whether financial or otherwise, constantly accepting help from them could make them feel entitled to dictate how you run your home or raise your kids.

Reassure them that they are important, but show them that you can overcome hurdles on your own. This can help them respect you more.

Check-in with your spouse to make sure your relationship doesn’t suffer

When your relationship with your in-law is tense, it could affect your marriage. Talk to your husband about how he feels about the difficulties you encounter with his mum. Hopefully, he can help ease some of the tension and be a bridge to a better, more civil relationship.

Above all, don’t forget to reassure your in-laws that their wisdom is vital, but at the end of the day, you need to grow without their constant intervention, to savour the joys and challenges of parenthood on your own terms. 

Sources: Mirror UK, The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, The Washington Post, Global News

READ THIS ALSO: “My mother-in-law held my baby before me and I can never forgive her for that!”

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

Written by

Bianchi Mendoza

app info
get app banner