My mother-in-law is always interfering in how my wife and I bring up our children. She regularly babysits for us and fills in if we need emergency childcare as we both work full time. She’s very supportive in that way, but the pay-off is that she feels she has a right to tell us how to parent.

It’s starting to cause arguments between us. My wife is more relaxed about it – she is her daughter, after all – and says I shouldn’t take what her mum says so seriously. But I’m close to having it out with her mum.

She criticises everything we do – from the food we give them, to the bedtime routine and even the clothes we put them in. She has advice for everything, of course, and a better way of doing things.

Last week, she undermined us with our son’s teacher, who told her at pick-up time that he’d hit another child. My mother-in-law marched our son up to the child and his mother and made him apologise in the playground.

She humiliated him and we would never have handled the situation in this way, especially as we know there’s history between the boys and our son has been on the receiving end several times.

Any suggestions?

Aunty Lisa says

Yes, I think she probably should have let you deal with the incident at school, but she clearly feels confident that she can take matters into her own hands. And that might well be because she cares for the kids a lot of the time and has got used to making lots of decisions for them on a daily basis.

It’s a tricky one because you clearly rely on her a lot and I’m sure your kids adore her. I think there’s something in what your wife says – don’t take what your mother-in-law says to heart and don’t take her advice if you don’t want to.

You can listen, be polite and nod your head, but you don’t have to follow it. Simply say, “Thanks for that, we’ll think about it.”

As for the incident at school, I do think you need to bring that up with her. Explain the problems your son has been having with this boy and suggest having a chat about it at home in future before taking any action.

And if you’re really bothered, make an appointment to talk to the teacher about what happened – you could also ask them to contact you directly about any school issues instead of talking to your mother-in-law.

Also remember, her heart is in the right place – she’s just going about it in the wrong way. And some of her advice might not be all bad – she did a good job bringing up your wife.

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