- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 1999

During a holiday dinner many years ago, an older woman was railing against daughters-in-law.”
“They’re so lazy,” she said. “They expect everyone else to pick up after them. They’re such bad mothers, too.”
After each comment, she turned to the young woman seated next to her the one who recently had married her only son and, patting the young woman on the arm, saying, “Of course, dear, I’m not talking about you.”
Fifty years after that dinner, the daughter-in-law is now a mother-in-law. She never forgot those early slights and though she and her mother-in-law eventually forged a cordial relationship, she never forgave the older woman.
“I swore that I’d never do the same thing to my daughter-in-law,” says the Silver Spring woman, who asked not to be identified. “Sometimes I have to bite my tongue, but I try very hard not to criticize and not to interfere.”
Family counselors agree those are two of the keys to creating in-law harmony. Following are more tips from the experts on achieving in-law detente.

To become a welcome-anytime Kind of mother-in-law:
Don’t visit unannounced.
Be generous with your money but stingy with your advice.
Don’t expect to be waited on especially if there are young children in the family.
Realize the relationship with your child has changed, and your child is part of a couple.
Never ask your child to choose between you and his or her spouse.
Volunteer to help with baby-sitting. In addition to gaining special time with your grand-children, you also give the younger couple badly needed time with each other.
Offer compliments. Instead of criticizing child-rearing or household skills, find ways to praise the things that are done well.
Don’t demand that all holidays and events take place in your home. The younger couple need to establish their own traditions.
If they live out of town, visit them or, if appropriate, offer to pay their fare for them to visit you.
Don’t be dependent. Establish your own life away from your children.
When problems arise, note them and discuss them calmly later. The holiday dinner table is not a good place to vent pent-up emotions.
Don’t nag or demand. Offer opinions, if asked, and then let the matter drop.
Remember that you are the mature one in the relationship and realize you may have to concede points for the sake of family unity.

Advice from the expertson how to be a gracious daughter- or son-in-law:
Create a united front with your spouse. Don’t force each other to take sides.
When negotiations are required, have the son or daughter discuss the issue with his or her own parent.
Anticipate problems before they occur and resolve them in an unemotional environment don’t wait until a family reunion or a holiday gathering.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Stuffed resentments will fester and worsen the relationship.
Invest in the relationship. Get to know your in-laws and find some common ground in their interests.
As a couple, establish clear house rules and articulate them to your in-laws. Be clear on your parenting styles.
Spend some unhurried time with your in-laws when holiday pressure is off.

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