Dr. Townsend, I am experiencing conflict with my in-laws about the way I raise my children. They tend to nit-pick every decision that I make. Do you have any tips for setting boundaries with in-laws?
I know it’s no fun to feel conflict with your in-laws. Here are some ways to address the sensitive issue. Begin with a positive and vulnerable conversation. Simply wait until there is a quiet moment, where there’s not a lot going on.
Then say, “I’m glad you are involved and engaged with us and our kids. And, I always want to be open to feedback when I might not be the best parent for them. I appreciate you wanting to give me feedback, but sometimes it’s a bit too much for me. Would you mind asking me if it’s a good time to give me feedback before you bring up something about the kids? That will feel more connected and helpful to me.”
If they are safe people, they will probably respond positively and adapt to your request.
On the other hand, if they react defensively, then you may need to consider setting boundaries around your time together. In that case, I recommend reading these resources:
Chapter 7 – “Boundaries and Your Family”
How to Have That Difficult Conversation
Chapter 18 – “Dealing with Blame, Counterattack, and Other Problems”