Mother-in-Law Triggers Son’s Aggressive Behavior

How do you handle a grandmother's micromanaging?

By Sarah Hamaker

Q: Our 22-month-old son has become very aggressive with my mother-in-law, who micromanages his playtime, such as play with this toy or give me a hug). My son’s tone of voice with his grandmother has become strident and he will shove grandma away sometimes.

I’ve tried to get my mother-in-law to let him play his own way, but she’s resistant to changing—and she tries to micromanage her adult children’s lives, too. How should I talk to my son about his behavior toward his grandmother, when I don’t agree with her behavior?

A: Ah, those lovely, Terrible Twos, as some have called this age. A nearly two-year-old wants what he wants, and doesn’t want anyone telling him what to do. Through in a grandmother who likes to micromanage, and you have a recipe for disaster.

But there’s hope! While you can’t change the grandmother’s behavior, you can change how you react and relate to her. Call it your MIL Rehabilitation plan. First, limit your son’s time with the grandmother. When she starts getting overly involved with his playtime—and you sense he’s becoming frustrated—separate the two of them immediately.

If your son shoves or hits your mother-in-law, intervene immediately and discipline him (at this age, a short time out usually works well, or sometimes even a stern reprimand like “no hitting”). If his aggression continues, cut your visit short, or, if at your home, then have him spend 15 minutes or so along in his room.

By physically removing your son from your MIL’s presence, you’ll give him time to cool down. You might not change her behavior, but she might learn that micromanaging triggers your son’s frustrations, and she just might alter the way she interacts with him. But don’t count on her changing—you’ll have to work on changing your own approach to the situation.

Do you have a parenting question you would like to see answered on this blog? Email Sarah with Parenting Question in the subject line. Sign up for Practical Parenting, Sarah’s a free, monthly e-newsletter with commonsense advice on child rearing, by visiting www.parentcoachnova.com and clicking on the newsletter tab.

Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.parentcoachnova.com and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach.

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