Mother/Daughter-in-Law Survival Guide | Part 1


Annie and Lilian Chapman

Annie and Lillian Chapman

Steve and I returned home from spending Thanksgiving weekend with his parents, my in-laws, P.J. and Lillian Chapman.  As we drove the eight-hour trek from West Virginia back to Tennessee, I was reminded, once again of how truly blessed I am to have a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law.  Sadly enough, I know this advantage is not true for everyone.

Some of you are facing the possibility of many hours together with your in-laws.  In a nutshell, you dread being with people you are supposed to love but really don’t like all that much.

In the book, The Mother-in-Law Dance, I offer some practical ways to build a mutually satisfying and lasting relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law.

This week I will offer three things a mother-in-law can do that will help avoid discord between her daughter-in-law and her son’s family. The insights below are adapted from my book, “The Mother-in-Law Dance / Can Two Women Love The Same Man and Still Get Along” available in the book section at this website.

(Next week, I will share three things the daughter-in-law can do to honor her husband’s mother and help keep Harmony in the Home.)

 For the mother-in-law…

  • Be flexible, not pitiful

There are a lot of demands on our adult children’s time.   While I value being with my children as much as any mother, I’ve decided I will not put additional pressure on them by requiring them to fit into my plans.   What does that look like?  It means the Chapman Thanksgiving dinner, for example, may be the week before the actual holiday or even the first week of December.  Or it may mean that our Christmas celebration is on the 18th instead of the 25th.

While this may seem unfair, and sometimes it feels that way, my ultimate goal is to make life for my children easier and less stressful.  Of all the people and situations in their lives that make it difficult, I don’t want to be one of them.

So, may I be so bold as to offer some of you moms a gift idea for your adult children?  How about giving your kids a guilt-free holiday?  If you are like me, it will cost you a lot to do it, but it may be just the gift they were hoping for.

  • Be careful to stay inside your boundaries

Like a beautiful river that gives pleasure and joy to a community, the same water source can bring destruction and sorrow when it leaves it bank and encroaches on the surrounding areas.

In a similar way, a mother-in-law is a wonderful asset to a family.  She can bring wisdom and help that is beneficial to her son’s family like no one else can.  However, when she steps over the line by interjecting her thoughts, opinions and presence without an invitation to do so she can do great harm.

Keep in mind, the same expressions of love that make an incredible mother to small children (the desire to nurture, guide, instruct and carefully watch over her young) are the same actions and attitudes that make a terrible mother to adult children.

  • Be encouraging with your words

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” The truth of this proverb is especially applicable when it comes to the Mother-in-law/Daughter-in-law relationship.  Affirming your daughter-in-law with positive words and an encouraging attitude will go along way to helping your son and his family to want to be around you.  The old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is true, but of course who wants to catch flies.  Also keep in mind that honey also attracts bears.  But I digress.

If you are ever tempted to have a heart to heart talk with your daughter-in-law in order to point out her faults or to correct something you find unacceptable…Please don’t do it!!  As a rule, the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is such that no good can come out of that kind of conversation. If you must express yourself, then tell your son and let him deal with it.  The following poem says it very well…

Power of Words

A careless word may kindle strife

A cruel word may wreck a life

A bitter word may hate instill

A brutal word may smite and kill


A gracious word may smooth the way

A joyous word may light the way

A timely word may lessen stress

A loving word may heal and bless

(Author unknown)


Do you have any practical advice you can share that has helped you in your relationship with your in-laws?  Feel free to leave a comment or prayer request so other’s can share in your wisdom or your burden.

If you know someone who could benefit from this information please share this web page with them. Thanks!

Annie Chapman


  1. I am so excited about your new website! I am telling all my friends about it! My husband and I saw you at the Couples Weekend at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference last Fall and enjoyed the weekend so much!

  2. Alice Click says

    A Note From Your Sister: I so appreciate the words of wisdom you have shared about relationships! At our home we have Thanksgiving on Wednesday — so for our daughter and son may have the traditional day with their parents’-in-law… I am so thankful to have my family visit — no matter what day it is — every visit feels just like a holiday! By the way, Thanksgiving Day at our home — is watching the parades and sports on TV and having our traditional grilled cheese and hot chocolate brunch/lunch. And, packing up all of the serving dishes.

  3. Alice Click says
    • Alice,
      Thank you for sharing our website with your Facebook friends. We want to be an encouragement. For nearly 40 years we have sung and spoken on behalf of families. This website has offered yet another way of doing it. We are grateful.

  4. I searched for help being a new mother-in-law. I need to “grow up” fast so I do not feel slighted and bitter about celebrating Christmas on Christmas eve at our home with my new daugter -in-law and son instead of Christmas day.
    I guess they now call the shots about when we get together and that seems unfair.
    We live a few miles apart but rarely see each other as they choose to never “drop in” and of course we will not drop in on them.
    They lived together 2 yrs. before marriage (we lived in another state at the time) and we tried to be loving but they know how we felt.
    Also we have a 27yr old son with serious schizophrenia that lives with us that I believe my daughter-in-law wants to seperate herself from which I understand. My married son has commented about his brother (both adopted at birth) living in an institutional setting sometime but he is so cooperative and thankful to us we would not do that to him while we can be care givers. Well thank you for the opportunity to express some feelings……………Glory to our Lord Jesus, Donna

    • Donna,
      Thank you for sharing your heart with those who read this posting. May God continue to help you be a “second miler.” As a Christ follower we are to go further than required and give more than expected. But be of good cheer, when we serve Christ in this way, He will make sure we receive more than we deserve.

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