Do you feel like there's no place to hide from your intrusive in-laws? Time for some boundaries!

How to Deal With Intrusive In-laws

by Liza Blau

The intrusive in-laws show up at your house unannounced, call day and night with meddlesome questions and constantly give unsolicited advice on all subjects, including what you should spend your money on, which foods you should feed your family and how you should raise your toddler. You may not be able to tell them to 'mind their own' in so many words, but there are ways to draw boundaries and still maintain family peace.

Set strict boundaries to ward off your meddlesome in-laws. Don't continue to hold silent grudges, because that will only lead to increased anger and resentment. Don't be afraid to put your needs first. For example, if your in-laws always drop by unannounced, ask them to call first to set up a previously arranged time. If they disregard your wishes, don't answer the door. If they phone too often, don't feel guilty about letting the answering machine take the calls. And, when they give unsolicited advice regarding your toddler, financial matters and other personal issues, don't be afraid to tell them something like, "I appreciate your concern, but these are not your decisions."

Drop the constant need for their approval. If your in-laws criticize your parenting decisions, realize that you're the final authority on what's best for your children. If they try to guilt trip you after you didn't follow a piece of advice, try saying something like, "Well, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree." Let their disapproval roll off your shoulders as mush as possible. If they ask why you made a decision that went against what they recommended, simply state, "I have my reasons." You don't need to defend yourself. If they continue to complain, try saying, "I appreciate your concern." Don't be afraid to end with that.

Start behaving as an equal, not a child. If your in-laws sense you're afraid of them or feel insecure in their presence, it will empower them to continue disrespecting your parenting role. By no longer permitting their intrusive behavior, they'll have no choice but to stop if they want to be included in your life. The next time your in-laws ask an intrusive question, confidently and respectfully tell them something like, "That is something we wish to keep between the two of us."

Work with your husband as a united front. Don't criticize his parents, because that will put him in an uncomfortable position. Instead, stick to the facts. For example, let him know if your mother-in-law has been criticizing your parenting abilities so he can approach her about the things she is saying. You can approach your in-laws together with important decisions that may disappoint them such as, "We've decided it won't be best for us to move into your apartment complex" or "We appreciate your offer, but we won't be needing you to babysit and have decided to hire outside help."


  • Ask your in-laws for advice on benign matters after you've set other boundaries on the things that really matter. Doing so will make them feel included.

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