How to Train Your Mother-in-Law (In 7 Easy Steps!)

Mother-in-law conflict resolution tipsMother-in-law conflict resolution tips

Mother-in-law conflict resolution tips

As long as there have been mother-daughter relationships, there have been mother-daughter conflicts.

Parenting is hard and sometimes relationships with your mom or mother-in-law can make it even harder.

Good news – You CAN find common ground with your child’s grandma.

Even better news – I’m going to tell you HOW!

My title is mostly facetious, of course we can’t train a human being (but wouldn’t that be nice? *cough* *cough* husbands).

But today I AM going to give you 7 ideas to help both resolve and prevent conflict with your mom/mother-in-law (MIL).

Related Post | What Does Your Mother-In-Law Think About Your Parenting?

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What Does Your Mother-In-Law Think About Your Parenting?


1 |  Be Prepared with the Proper Equipment

The first big parenting fight I got in with my own mother occurred while I was pregnant with my first child. Yep, we fought about child-rearing before my baby was even born.

It all started over a crib. Specifically, my childhood crib.

My well-intentioned mother had saved it for years with the intent of using it for her grandchildren. Well now her first grandchild was on the way so she had my dad set it up in the extra bedroom.

“That crib isn’t safe”, I said. “Safety regulations have changed a hundred times since I was a kid.”

Then she said the line that we’ve all heard a million times, “well I used it for you and you turned out fine.”

At first, I was really upset. I felt like she wasn’t listening to me. Sure, I might be kind of crazy – but what new mom isn’t?

But then guess what I did, I bought her a new crib.

Ok specifically I bought a Pack ‘N Play, because compared to a traditional crib it’s relatively inexpensive. Plus, it’s an approved safe-sleeping surface and has a built in storage/changing area.

And she used the Pack ‘N Play, not the death-crib (my name, not hers).

There were other things too, I found out she wasn’t buckling my son properly into his car seat even though I showed her 100 times how to tighten/loosen the straps and secure the 5-point harness.

Problem was, I tried to save money and got a cheap car seat for her car. Turns out she physically couldn’t use the straps properly. So I sprung for a seat I knew she could use properly (for us, it’s the Diono Radian RXT). The clasps are much easier to use in the Dionos.

Don’t leave these things up to chance! If you have an opinion about the products your child is using, or the food they eat, then supply your mom/MIL with it.

Maybe it’s Organic Superfood Puffs over cheerios.

Maybe it’s a Breathable Crib Bumper over a traditional one.

They might not go and get it on their own. But chances are if you provide it for them, they’ll use it.

Related Post | Should Grandma be in the Delivery Room?

Baby Sleep Infancy Tired Through The Night


2 |  Prioritize Tricks You Want Them to Learn

Look, let’s be honest for a second… you’ve got a lot of rules for your kid.

That’s ok! You’re the mom, you’re the boss.

Except it does make it a little confusing for grandma when she gets to visit.

“No pacifiers unless it’s bedtime”
“Veggies before pasta but fruit after dinner”
“Light, breathable blankets are OK for the crib but the soft, flannel ones are not”
 … I think those were just 3 of my 582 rules I had for interacting with my kid.

As much as moms may hate it, grandmas gotta do their thing. It’s in their grandma DNA to love and spoil.

You gotta compromise here.

Prioritize the safety rules (proper car seat safety, no stuffed animals in crib, etc) but realize that everything else is negotiable.

Pick one (or maybe two) preferred rules and stress that one. For me, it’s “no sweets”.

Honestly, there are plenty of other rules that I would prefer they would follow – no screen time, taking them potty instead of using pull-ups, sticking to a schedule rather than snacking all day… But even I have to admit that it’s not the end of the world if they bend those rules.

Most moms could probably afford to relax a little. We don’t even follow our own rules 100% of the time.

Model the behavior you want, but don’t be upset if they spoil in those “less critical” areas. In all honesty, you’re lucky to have someone who loves your child so much.

Related Post | What Does Your Mother-In-Law Think About Your Parenting?

What Does Your Mother-In-Law Think About Your Parenting?


3 |  Use the Correct Constructive Language

Remember those “I-statements” we learned about in high school for constructive communication? Turns out those apply in real life too.

In case this idea is new to you, the point of an I-statement is to give behavior feedback without putting the other person down. Rather than concentrating on their negative behavior, you concentrate on your own feelings.

So rather than saying to your husband “you’re a jerk for not cleaning the kitchen like you said you would” you might instead say “I feel sad that the kitchen hasn’t been cleaned”.

The only difference is that with your mom, you want to use what I call “baby-statements”.

Baby-statements connect everything back to the baby.  Or blame everything on the baby, if you will.

Let’s give some examples.

While you might want to say, “I’m not bringing my baby to your house, it’s a death-trap with hazards everywhere”.  Instead you should say, “If we come to your house this weekend, we need to find a safe place for baby to play”.

(Psssst.. the Summer Infant Pop N’ Play Playard is a great option for safe play at Grandma’s house).

Let’s look at another example.  Rather than saying, “There’s no way I’m bringing over my toddler for dinner, you eat at 8 P.M. and that’s way too late!”  Try a simple, “We’d love to do dinner Friday, let’s plan on 5 P.M. as that’s when my child’s accustomed to eating dinner”.

Remember, no blame or attacking grandma. Concentrate on the baby.

What Does Your Mother-In-Law Think About Your Parenting?


4 |  If They’ve Only Passed Training 101, Don’t Be Upset If they Don’t Know Advanced Tricks

Of all my points, this is the one I am the most guilty of breaking. These are the situations that get me so upset and I have to remind myself to calm down.

The idea is simple – you can’t get mad at grandmas for breaking a rule they didn’t even know  was a rule in the first place.

Let me give you an example: When my children were little, my husband and I made a very deliberate effort not to freak out when they would fall or bump themselves.

You know, when your child accidentally smacks themselves with a toy and they pause for a second and look at you to gauge the severity of the incident. My husband and I would try to keep a straight face even though inside we’re thinking (oh my goshhhh, did he hurt himself?!?).  Our thinking was, if they’re hurt they’ll cry. If we freak out and make a big deal out of it, we might scare and upset them over nothing.

This worked well for us!  For the most part they’d trip over a to toy, shake it off, and keep going. If they were actually hurt, they’d cry and we’d comfort them.

The first time grandma was over after my youngest started rolling, he rolled over off his blanket and lightly hit his hand on the hardwood floor. She instantly picked him up and started saying, “shhhh it’s OK, you’re OK”…. even though he wasn’t crying or obviously injured in any way.

I got irrationally upset at this (I’m going to blame the postpartum hormones).

But that was incredibly unfair of me.

I was literally mad at her for loving my child and for breaking a rule she DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WAS A RULE.

So before you get mad at grandma for doing something, take a second to think back if she’s actually aware of that particular guideline.

If you haven’t, let it slide this time. When you are calm, use the baby-statements (see step #3) to effectively communicate this point for future reference.

Even if it seems common sense to you, it may not be. It’s been a while since many grandparents have been around babies, plus parenting guidelines have changed over the years.

Baby Sleep Infancy Tired Through The Night


5 |  Provide a Schedule

This point could also be described as “write everything down”.

When I would drop off my child, I would rattle off 100 different directions:

They last ate 30 minutes ago, so start warming the first bottle in 2 hours.  Start with older 2 oz of fresh milk mixed with the 4 oz bag of frozen. Then next time mix this 3 oz fresh with 2 oz frozen. I’m trying a new thing where we have 10 minutes of tummy time followed by 15 minutes of eye tracking exercises, just make sure it’s not within 30 minutes of giving them a bottle. We’re also trying to increase the amount of time between naps so start to do quiet activities… and on and on.

Oh geeze, the worst part is that’s probably only 10% of everything I had to say.

No surprise, something probably wouldn’t get done like I wanted it to.

So write it all down!  Every day, even if it’s the same thing. But this is especially critical if it’s slightly different.

Don’t assume that saying, “he’s drinking 1 oz less in his afternoon bottle now” will be remembered.

Write. It. Down.

Then at least you know everyone is looking at the same page.

Baby Sleep Infancy Tired Through The Night


6 |  Give them a Treat

Grandma likes to spoil. So let her.

Before you get upset, here me out.

You can suggest the behavior/item/method of the spoiling.

Food is a popular area grandmas like to spoil. If you’re not cool with the marshmallows she wants to give to your toddler, provide her with something else fun. No, that can’t be a carrot stick (neither toddlers nor MILs are that naive).

Maybe instead of baking cupcakes, get them ingredients to make muffins together.  Or instead of a bowl of ice cream, suggest strawberries covered with a little whipped cream.

One special treat my own MIL shares with my oldest child is olives. It may sound weird, but since my husband and I hate olives – this is a special treat/bond the two of them share.

This same point applies to behavior.

I have this game (Chickyboom if you’re curious) that my kids LOVE. But me? I HATE it.

They’re just not really old enough for it so I keep getting frustrated when all the chickens fall down. The kids laugh and laugh every time it falls down.

I hate it so much that…. I hid it in the closet. (*hangs head in shame*)

So you know what? When my MIL is over I suggested she play it with them. They were ecstatic to see the game again, and she truly gets to feel like she’s doing something special their mother won’t normally allow them to do.

So encourage this special grandma-child bond. Just encourage it in a way that is beneficial and acceptable to all parties.

What Does Your Mother-In-Law Think About Your Parenting?


7 |  Admit Defeat

As my mom likes to put it: Grandmas see things differently, they have different priorities.

Even despite all your best efforts, they are going to treat your child differently than you. And really, it’s OK.

Before you get mad about something, take a step back and think about it.

Say it out-loud to yourself.  Say it out-loud to your friend. Is it really a big deal?  Does it come from a place of love?

Sometimes grandparents are going to do what they want – sorry but that’s the nature of it. They love your child. It’s up to us whether to get mad or accept it.

Do you have more MIL advice? Be sure to comment below, I’d love to read it!

And you know you have a friend who’s struggling with their MIL, so do her a favor and share this article on Facebook and Pinterest.

About Author


Hi, I’m Jo!

I have two small children, Ry and Lily, only 19 months apart. It’s usually crazy around my house, but thankfully my wonderful husband is around a ton and helps keep the peace.

I also own my own business and work full-time. I’d love to list all these amazing hobbies I have, but honestly I can barely handle keeping the kids entertained, the house clean, and food on the table. Although on days I’m too tired to do housework, I love to pour a glass of wine and watch Supernatural or Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix.

My husband and I like to stay very busy and drag our kids everywhere with us. Weekends often include relaxing at wineries, festivals, exploring Washington D.C. and other short getaway trips.


  1. Navneet says:

    Lucky you that your MIL wants to spoil and spend time with your kids..mine won’t even hold my baby 🙁 and she stays with us…..

    1. Jo says:

      Awww, I’m sorry to hear that! That’s unfortunate. All MIL relationships are certainly different.

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