Important Lessons For Mothers and Mother In Laws

…for relating with their adult children and grandchildren. Life has a lot to teach us if we pay attention. What follows are some of the life lessons I've learned (so far). I won't say how I've learned some of these lessons…let's just say that life can be a hard teacher.

Note: although they're numbered, they're really in no particular order of importance.

Lessons From a Mother and (Future) Mother-In-Law


Lesson #1 Your parental role ends at their adulthood.
Like it or not. You may have brought them into this world, but you don't own them. They were given to you for a short time; their lives as adults are theirs. They no longer depend on you and although their ties to you are permanent, their relationship with you is optional. They can share those lives with you, but there are boundaries you must respect or higher walls will inevitably be built.


Lesson #2 Your title does not translate to entitlement.
Just because you're her mother doesn't mean you have the right to criticize her or that she has no choice but to accept it from you. Being his mother doesn't entitle you to knowing his business if he does not wish to tell you. Don't try to make your adult children (or grandchildren) feel obligated to include you in their lives. Allow them to feel privileged.


Lesson #3 Unsolicited advice is unwanted advice.
When you offer unsolicited advice, you are criticizing how the person is doing (or not doing) something. Or, if they haven't done it yet and you are offering "preemptive" advice, you are saying you don't have the confidence in them that they will do it right. There really isn't any other way around it. If they want your advice, they will ask for it…and probably often if you respect this rule.


Lesson #4 Let them make their own mistakes.
This goes along with lesson three. Your adult child wants more than anything to know that you trust them and that you believe in them. Even if they "do it wrong", believe they will figure out how to make it right. If you did your job well, they will.


Lesson #5 Criticize the spouse, criticize your child.
Your "child" picked their spouse (or significant other, as the case may be). Whether you agree or disagree with the choice they've made does not matter. Your disrespecting and criticizing their spouse will only serve to cause your adult child pain (and will likely encourage them to stay with their spouse, out of either loyalty, spite, or fear of admitting a mistake).


Lesson #6 Be grand, not a parent.
Your grandchild has plenty of people telling him/her what to do. Enjoy your role as a grandparent and don't try to take on a parental role. You'll reap the rewards, or suffer the consequences, accordingly. Above all, a grandparent has the ability to make a child feel extremely special and accepted no matter what. Everyone has the picture of what the perfect grandparent would be…be that grandparent.


Lesson #7 Accept that your child is not you.
It is very likely that your adult child will make decisions that are different than the ones you have made (or would make). This does not mean that they reject your values, but that they have their own. There will also be times that they will see things differently than you do. This does not mean they are wrong (or that you are). Although our lives may overlap, each of us has different life experiences. Don't try to make your life experiences apply to them.



Do you want your children or grandchildren to roll their eyes when someone asks them about you? Or do you want them to exclaim that you're the greatest! Do you want them to get excited when they see that a card has arrived from you or open it with dread knowing that it contains a lecture of how you feel they should be living their lives? Do you want them to call you just to talk about whatever or only call you when they absolutely have to or feel forced to?

Sure, we're kind of stuck with the family we get. But that doesn't mean we have to feel like we're stuck. You can make your sons and daughters (and grandsons and granddaughters) deal with you…or you can make it wonderful. Your choice!


For further inspiration, read:
Poetic Essay "On Children" from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran


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