Controlling Daughter-In-Law

By Annie Lane

August 8, 2019 4 min read

Dear Annie: The problem is not with our son, but his wife. They dated in high school and college, and she was friendly and nice to us during those periods, visiting us quite often. They were married after living together for more than five years, and during that time we had good relations with them. They would visit us once a week.

My son and daughter-in-law are well-educated, and they now have two young daughters, ages 6 and 3. The girls are very attached to us. But our daughter-in-law controls the girls and they rarely visit us.

When they do visit, their mother won't let the kids out of her sight. The other day, my wife showed the children the strawberries that had grown in our backyard. Their mother immediately told them not to eat them, even though my wife had said they would be washed. Their mother said no.

We helped our son and his wife financially to buy their house. They live around 10 minutes' drive from our house. Yet we go to their house only two times a year to attend our granddaughters' birthdays. Otherwise, they never invite us. Being in our 60s, we are not young. It seems odd, but even when we want to babysit, she refuses to have them stay with us. Yet her parents babysit all the time.

When he is alone with us, our son is happy to chat, but once she arrives, he becomes a totally changed person — as if he is her puppy.

Once a week, we insist that our son have lunch with us at a restaurant during his lunch break from work. But if we bring up any issues involving his wife's attitude toward us or our grandchildren, he gets very mad, so we don't even discuss it.

We have another son and we have no problems; he and his wife let my wife babysit, and we meet with them often.

We are sad about the son whose wife has become unfriendly, and we are turning to you for advice. — Questioning Grandparents

Dear Questioning Grandparents: Keeping your grandchildren away from you and your husband not only hurts you, but it also hurts the children. Grandparents can provide security and wisdom to their grandchildren. They can tell them stories of what their dad was like when he was their age. Kids always get a kick out of that. It is understandable that you crave a loving relationship with them. Grandkids can help grandparents to stay mentally sharp and stave off depression or loneliness.

Your daughter-in-law seems to be a controlling person, and that is creating problems for your relationship with your and for your son. So continue to tread lightly and appreciate the time you get with your son and his children, however limited it is. Also, watch that you don't try to control your own son by saying "we insist" that he have lunch with you once a week.

Keep talking to your son about your desire to have a close relationship, and explain all of the mutual benefits. Ask what would make your son and daughter-in-law more comfortable visiting or letting you babysit. Get interested in her concerns. At the same time, continue to nurture your relationship with your other son's kids and enjoy being terrific grandparents.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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