My sister-in-law is very opinionated and a hovering mom. She has fears about her children’s safety and will hardly let them out of her sight. This wouldn’t be such a big deal to me except that when we’re together, she’s over-protective of my children. It’s exhausting being around her with all of our kids because she treats me like I’m neglecting my children when I don’t pay attention to their every move. Oh, and she only has two children, and my husband and I have four. It’s much easier for her to hover and guard two children. However, my kids scatter and play, which I’m okay with, but she’s not. I feel like my only option is to stop hanging out with her, but our kids do like to be around each other.
You’re going to have to get some courage and do the socially uncomfortable thing of calling her off of your kids. You don’t have to be rude about it, but firm and clear that you understand she’s worried about your children’s safety, but that you’re their mom and will protect them.
If you’re not sure about your own parenting approach, then her strong approach will cause you some insecurity. You might wonder if you’re being too relaxed about your parenting and missing something important. Talk with your husband and get clear on your parenting philosophy. Confidence in your own style will give you the strength to draw a line between what you’re doing and what she’s doing.
I’m sure it’s confusing for your children to have two “moms” telling them different things. Let her know you want to send clear signals to your children and not confuse them. You might even consider sitting down in a moment where you’re not around the kids and talk with her privately so she can concentrate on what you’re saying instead of watching the children.
She may want to control all of the variables because it’s easier for her to have your children doing things her way so she doesn’t have to deal with her kids seeing something different. If the freedom your children enjoy is causing problems with her children, then let her figure that out. You don’t need to completely change your parenting style for your children just because it makes her uncomfortable.
She may be open to having a discussion about your approach so she can better understand your theory on parenting and why you parent the way you do. Invite her to talk more deeply about both parenting approaches to gain greater understanding. The goal isn’t to force the other to change, but to better understand and appreciate what the other is doing.
Regardless of the level of understanding you each attain, the fact remains that you get to be the mom to your kids and she gets to be the mom to her kids when you’re both around. Intervene and reinforce the consistent messages you’ve been sending to your children so they aren’t confused.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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