18 Ways to Be a Good and Helpful Mother-In-Law (Qualities)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

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Many people mistakenly believe that all the responsibility of a good mother-in-law and daughter/son-in-law relationship relies solely on the daughter/son-in-law. The reality is that mothers-in-law can also put in the effort to bond and create a healthy and happy relationship with their child’s partner. If you are one of these forward-thinking mothers-in-law and want to do your bit to be a great mother-in-law (or MIL), then it’s time to brush up on your “good mother-in-law skills”.

Being a mother-in-law that’s great to spend time with takes work. If you think it’s on the shoulders of your child’s spouse to put in all the effort, you will be sorely mistaken. Those days are dead and gone. The good news is that you are reading this, and that means you are well on your way to becoming the type of mother-in-law you genuinely want to be (a great one!). Take a look at the following tips for being a great mother-in-law below.

How to be the best mother-in-law you can possibly be – 18 useful tips:

1. Be open to the concept that your child is not always right in an argument. 

Some mothers-in-law jump to the support of their son or daughter when there’s a fight between partners, and while this is a great way to show love and loyalty to your flesh and blood, it’s unrealistic and rather unfair. While you should never get involved in your child’s personal issues, if you have to be involved, be open to the idea that your child could be ill-informed, misbehaving, or simply being unfair. It happens.

2. Try to be fun and easy-going, at least some of the time. 

If you are awkward, uptight, and unable to relax, and just be down-to-earth when doing things with your child and their spouse, chances are that they will limit time with you. Let go of all the stresses and burdens that worry you and try to be the type of mother-in-law that’s up for an adventure, easy to laugh, and less prone to focusing on the doom and gloom of the world. 

3. Be understanding when your child and partner have other plans.

Your child and their partner have a life that they are trying to live. When you ask them to join you for a visit or an event, and they can’t make it, cut them some slack. Chances are that they genuinely have other plans to attend to. Make a habit of being understanding and recommend that next time they join you. There’s no need to get sour and upset about it. It will only end up tearing you apart and ensuring that they distance themselves from you. 

4. Spend time getting to know your child’s partner.

Your child’s partner is not just anyone…they are going to be around for the rest of your life (in most instances). Getting to know more about your daughter/son-in-law will ensure that you can find common ground, and when you do, spending time together will be more comfortable. That’s surely something that you would enjoy. 

5. Spend time with the grandkids and be willing to babysit from time to time.

A mother-in-law who puts in time and effort with the grandkids is one that is valued. By building relationships with your grandchildren, you will derive value from the family dynamic and enjoy being around for visits, family vacations, and family gatherings.

6. Be comfortable with sometimes taking the proverbial back seat.

For many years you have probably taken up a prime position in your child’s life, but when your child gets married and starts a family, everything changes. You might want to be the most important person at a gathering or call the shots and make the decisions, but that’s no longer your place. 

If you are willing to take the back seat and leave the decision making up to your child and their spouse (when it comes to their lives at least), you will find that they will respect your opinion and input more when you do have something to say or a better idea in mind. 

7. Avoid parenting the children. 

Having a great relationship with the grandchildren is one thing. Actually, interfering with the parenting style and process is quite another. If there are family rules to be followed, don’t let the kids break them when they are with you. Expect them to use the same manners, rules, and morals when with you as they do at home. This will create a unified front with your child’s partner and will deepen and strengthen the relationship. 

8. Be aware of and respect the generational gap because it’s actually okay.

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Generational gaps are sometimes hard to deal with. You might see your child’s spouse doing something or managing a situation in a way that you would never have done in “your day”, but that’s okay. There’s no need to make a comment or try to change things. Understand that things have changed over the years, and because of the generational gap, you’re always going to do things differently or think about things differently. Just let it go. Rather smile and put it down to times changing.

9. Compliment your son/daughter-in-law on a job well done from time to time.

Your son-in-law or daughter-in-law will probably thrive on your approval, so don’t hold back on it too firmly. Let them know that they are doing a good job or are worthy of respect and praise. It will mean a lot to them. 

10. Be open to talking about things, especially hurts and upsets.

If your daughter/son-in-law hurts your feelings or upsets you, be open to talking about it. Chances are that they are oblivious to the upset or hurt and could really benefit from learning what you find hurtful or upsetting. Of course, do this gently and tactfully. 

11. Be keen and put in the effort to meet your child’s spouse’s parents.

You are not the only mother-in-law in the mix, and you can end up learning a lot about your child’s partner by getting to know their parents too. Don’t wait for it to be an eventuality. Rather be the first one to recommend a “get to know the in-laws” gathering. 

12. Leave passive-aggressive attitudes at the door.

If you’re frustrated or annoyed and want to deliver that message to your daughter/son-in-law, don’t make passive-aggressive comments or behave in that matter. Talking openly and honestly will work far better. 

13. Don’t interfere in household happenings/processes – let it be.

If you’re visiting your child for a meal, let them do the work and focus on enjoying their company. Of course, you can offer to help, but don’t get involved anyway if they say no. This means don’t go wash the dishes or try to contribute to the meal by whipping up the sauce. Chances are that your son/daughter-in-law has it all planned out, and interfering will merely set those plans off-kilter and cause hard feelings. 

14. Be lighthearted – have a sense of humor about things. 

Being sullen, serious, and difficult to get a laugh out of will really put a damper on your visits. If you’re upbeat, lighthearted in conversation, and can see the funnier side of life, you will be someone that they want to spend time with. And that means you will get to see more of your child!

15. Fit in as much as possible – your child has a whole new life now.

You don’t want to be the mother-in-law that’s considered “difficult”, do you? If you are so set in your ways that you just don’t fit into your child’s new family unit, you’re not going to be very desirable to spend time with. If you fit in and just relax and have fun seeing your child grow and develop as a person, you will find yourself having a better time, and both your child and their partner will thoroughly enjoy having you around.

16. Don’t discuss your child’s personal marital or relationship issues – leave it between them. 

If you notice that there’s something up between your child and their partner, don’t meddle. Of course, if you suspect abuse, that’s a different story, but arguments happen, and it’s best to not get involved. Even if you are dying to ask what it is about and discuss the matters, avoid it. Things might be said in anger, and if you hop on board, anything you say and advise may be remembered and count against you when things are all happy and relaxed once more. 

17. Give adequate notice of visits/drop-ins, and don’t overstay your welcome.

You might just want to drop in to say “Hi” on your way home from visiting a friend, but that could be getting in the way of plans your child and their partner have already made. Be courteous and let them know if you plan a visit or at least ask if they are available for a drop-in.

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18. Drop the airs and graces – just be you. 

You probably have your own way of doing things. If you believe dinner should be eaten at a set table or the kids shouldn’t say up past 8pm, remember that these are your airs and graces and not your child and their partner’s. It’s best to simply enjoy the time spent and reserve imposing your own ideas on them.

Overall

Some of these may sound a little harsh, but they’re not really. At the end of the day, you want to be a great mother-in-law. Perhaps you even want to be considered a “kick-ass” mother-in-law, and it is tips like these that will earn you that status. 

Being a great mother-in-law is a lot easier than you think. Your son or daughter-in-law is already nervous and wants to form a good relationship with you…the scene is essentially set. All you have to do is focus on being a positive, welcoming, friendly, and non-interfering person, and things will go just fine. On your quest to becoming the best mother-in-law you can be – good luck!

JC Franco
Editor

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.