An overbearing mother is one who hovers around her offspring, behaving as if the child cannot function adequately without her instruction. She expects him to obey without asking questions or defying her demands.
If the child resists, she manipulates him to get her own way through tears, anger, the silent treatment or threatening to stop loving him. The child is not allowed to make choices for himself. If he does make a choice, the mother tears apart the decision, assuring failure of the child’s self-initiated efforts. Her overprotective ways smother the child’s independence and growth.
As it were, the child of an overbearing mother may not have many friends because the mother determines who her son or daughter can befriend. Some overbearing mothers plan birthday parties, getting the mother-approved children to attend by giving out expensive door prizes. The child might seem embarrassed when seen in public with his mother. He will allow his mother to speak for him even when he is present and able to speak for himself.
As the child matures, she may become performance-oriented. Perfection becomes the means by which she keeps the love and acceptance of her mother. As a result, she is continually anxious about her class assignments and anything she does as an extracurricular activity. She may require constant assurance from classroom teachers or those in authority that her work is above average. All of her actions are calculated to please someone else, mainly her mother. The expectations and approval of her mother become the focal point in her life.
Succinctly, the grown child of an overbearing mother will be emotionally immature. She does not know how to express her feelings, make decisions or assert her independence. She will not exercise her right to say no to authority figures such as employers. Instead, she will be driven to perform and gain their approval.
The adult child of an overbearing mother might cave in to peer pressure because she has been taught to obey her mother’s rules without having been given the reasons for those rules. She might do things she has been taught was wrong to avoid conflict with others or to earn acceptance, love and approval.
Any relationship with a significant partner or spouse will be strained until the child of the overbearing mother redefines the boundaries between herself and her mother. An adult who has been raised by an overbearing mother will have difficulty believing anyone can love her unconditionally.
Most parents receive unwanted parenting advice from time to time and dealing with this type of advice from strangers or friends is often easier than dealing with it from members of the immediate family, especially if the family member happens to be your mother-in-law.
While some parenting advice from your mother-in-law is likely to be useful and warrants further consideration, a lot of it can probably be taken with a grain of salt. When your mother-in-law’s parenting suggestions are outdated or do not suit your parenting style, it is important to handle her advice in a constructive manner.
Analysts are of the view that when any daughter in-law notices that her mother in-law is becoming overbearing, for peace sake, she should let her mother-in-law know that she value her opinion by simply listen actively while she (mother in-law) is speaking. Maintain eye contact if they are speaking to each other in person, and do not interrupt her, even if she disagrees with her parenting advice.
Also, the daughter-in-law must keep in mind that her mother-in-law is only trying to help. Before she takes offense or become upset, consider the fact that she has the best interests of her children in mind. After all, they are her grandchildren, and she surely believes that her advice will enhance their well-being.
She should acknowledge her mother-in-law’s parenting advice, whether she intends to consider her advice or not, respond to her as respectfully as possible. According to Karen Kleiman, clinical social worker who specializes in women’s issues, a simple “Thank you for the advice” is sufficient. Kleiman also suggests that it is perfectly fine to let your mother-in-law know that you have your own way of doing things.
The daughter-in-law should be honest about how she feels because bottling up her frustrations is likely to make her resentful and may even cause an inadvertent outburst, during which she may say something she will regret. For instance, if your mother-in-law is constantly telling you how to care for or raise your children, calmly inform her if it bothers you. Let her know that she will be one of first people you consult when you are in need of parenting advice.
She should inform her mother-in-law about changes regarding child safety practices and health care recommendations. For example, she may not know that the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends infants should be put to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Other child care recommendations that older generations may not be aware of include limiting juice intake, introducing solid foods between 4 and 6 months of age and securing children in car booster seats until they reach specific age and weight or height requirements. Keeping your mother-in-law up-to-date on current health and safety guidelines for children is a great way to eliminate much of her advice regarding these areas of parenting.
Furthermore, she might ask her spouse to back her up if her mother-in-law continues to provide relentless advice. Veteran clinical psychotherapist Dr. Deanna Brann, an expert on mother-in- law/daughter-in-law relationships, recommends approaching your mother-in-law as a team to convey the message that you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to parenting.
To avert problems the parenting advice might pose among the spouses, the woman should be bold enough to talk to her spouse (husband) because he deserves to know the difficulties she is having with her mother-in-law, and can often provide suggestions about resolving the issue. She should never ask her husband to choose between the two of them (either she or the mother); instead, approach him in the spirit of cooperation and ask for support in finding a solution because he can otherwise approach your mother-in-law in ways that you can’t.
The daughter-in-law should work to see things from her mother-in-law’s perspective, no matter how shrewish or infernal she may seem, she’s probably acting in what she feels is your best interest. Work to understand where she’s coming from, instead of just assuming that she’s the devil. It helps you to meet her halfway when you can.
She can as well, set boundaries and ensure that she sticks to them, while she may need to be flexible in certain situations, if you don’t want her dropping in unannounced, giving your kids candy before dinner or making plans for all of you without consulting you first, explain to her politely but firmly that you need her to stop. If she persists, refuse to go along with her plans and let her know why. Clear communication is important in such circumstances. Make sure she understands your rules and she knows why you’re acting the way you do when you enforce them.
Make peace offerings. Take time to see her one-on-one and participate in activities that she enjoys. Compliment her on her positive qualities and be kind to her when she needs a leg up. You’ll get to know her better and understand where she’s coming from. Hopefully, she’ll emerge with a greater understanding of who you are and become easier to deal with.
Some people interviewed by Friday magazine in Asaba on how to curb the excessive, overbearing influence of mother-in-laws were of the opinion that daughter-in-laws must keep their temper and sense of humour when dealing with their mother-in-laws, stressing that anger never helps, and a calm demeanour allows you to address your grievances with a better chance at resolving them.


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