Tag Archives: Role model

How to Be a Good Son-in-Law

Why is being a good son-in-law such a big deal?   Well, statistically speaking, we see a significant drop in the divorce rate when men get along with their wives’ parents, especially their fathers.   But even more importantly, it affects kids.  Grandparents are very important to a child’s sense of well-being because they can add depth and security to the loving relationships in his or her life.  The better your relationship is with your in-laws, the easier it is for your child to grow close with them and have more positive role models. 
For these reasons, I recommend that people think seriously about potential in-law problems before they consider marriage.  If you’re walking into a situation where your future in-laws hate you, you may want to rethink whether or not this match is right for you. 

Losing family connections is bad for everyone involved, as I learned all too well from my own parents.  My mother was a war bride from Italy, and my father was a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn.  My dad’s mom did not like the fact that he had married outside the faith, even though the only thing Jewish about his family was that they were culturally Jewish and celebrated Passover and Yom Kippur.  My mother also didn’t speak English very well, which made my mean grandmother all the more vicious.  She used to call up my mom almost daily saying how she wished my mother and me were dead.  It was a source of great strife in my family.

The less familial the connection is with your in-laws, the less happy, secure, and supported your marriage is going to be. Period.  That’s why I advise couples to do at least six months of premarital counseling so they can cover these kinds of issues before they get married.     
So, assuming your in-laws are reasonable people, here’s a list of things for all you men out there on establishing a good relationship with your wife’s parents:

  • Respect their daughter and take good care of her.  I am not the mother of a daughter, but if I was, I’d be in the face of her future husband saying, “You’d better take care of my baby.  Treat her with respect, love, and protection.  The most important thing to me is that you don’t hurt her and that you make her happy.”
  • Be there when their daughter needs you.  I’ve heard too many stories about men who were too busy doing one dumb thing or another and missed the birth of their child.  If you’re not at the hospital with your wife when your baby is born, you’ll be missing out on a lot of great parent-child bonding.
  • Act and look like a respectable man. If you want to have a meaningful relationship with her parents, act like a real man.  Don’t look or behave like an idiot. 
  • Reach out to your father-in-law.  The relationship between a father and a daughter is special. It will mean a lot to your wife and your mother-in-law if you can build a relationship with your father-in-law.  Find things that you have in common with him and go from there. Invite him to a ball game, go with him to a local event, or simply take him to lunch. Just spend some “guy time” together.  And if you aren’t married yet, be sure to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage before you pop the question. This is a show of respect that he will appreciate.
  • Attend family gatherings and engage. Don’t be frivolous about not attending family gatherings.  Unless it’s unavoidable, never let your wife and kids go to a holiday gathering at her parents’ house alone – you are missing a fantastic opportunity to build upon your relationship with your in-laws and the extended family through conversation and a shared experience.
  • Build good relationships with their other children. Try to connect with your wife’s siblings and their
  • Consult with your wife on how to handle sticky situations.  If it seems like there’s a growing issue, consult with your wife.  She knows her parents better than you do.  If you think a situation is a little sensitive, ask her for advice on how to respond.

Above all, treat their daughter like a queen and not like one of Henry VIII’s wives you’re going to behead.  Simply put: be nice.  It doesn’t kill you to be nice, does it?

How to Be an Effective Parent

It is becoming clearer and clearer in today’s society that parents are scared to death of actually being parents, leaders, and authority figures to their kids.  Consequently, the kids run the house, and the “parents” are left feeling frustrated because they can’t get them to do anything except give them lip and attitude.

In my opinion, the current epidemic of incapable parents started with abortions (when children became disposable) and was made worse by day care (when parents didn’t have to be involved).  Throw in shack-ups, people having more and more kids out of wedlock, and the perpetual cycle of divorce and remarriage, and you’ve got the kind of parenting we have today.  This may all sound a little wing nutty to you, but all of these things have indicated to me that there’s a lack of primacy in people’s minds about the needs and well-being of children.  I mean, if you can kill kids in your body or send them off to an institution all day, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern involved. 

There are a couple of things you need to be aware of as a parent.  First, it is not about the quality, but the quantity of time you spend with your kids.  Kids don’t just need quality moments to feel secure and know that you care about them.  If you give them quantity, the quality moments will be covered, and when they don’t have quality moments, you’ll still be there.

Consistency is also an integral part of parenting.  There are a lot of folks out there who are lazy and think being consistent requires too much effort.  However, if one parent is consistent and the other isn’t, the kid will figure out how to use the inconsistent parent against the steady one.  Inconsistency impacts a child’s emotional security.  There’s something comforting about knowing your role and place within a set of rules.  When kids know their responsibilities and understand what’s expected of them in a hierarchy of power, they have a better opportunity to grow.  When they know that there will be consequences if they cross the line, they tend to be more secure in life. 

Consequences need to be reasonable and it’s helpful if they are already made known ahead of time.  Try to make them as close to the issue as possible. Let’s say, for example, that your teen lies about where he or she has gone.  The consequence should be they can’t go anywhere unsupervised for a while.  If they misuse or abuse a cell phone, iPad, or computer, then they should lose it for a while until they earn it back. 

The “earning it back” is usually the part parents leave out of punishments.  It’s not just about making your child suffer for a period of time; it’s about giving them time to figure out a way to earn something back.  You can always give your child a hint, such as, “You breached my trust, and now I don’t trust you.  To regain my trust (or whatever it may be), you have got to figure out a way to earn it back.”  That gets them thinking about themselves and their own destiny.  It also teaches them something about interacting with other people and what they owe them.  They have to learn that the world is not just about them.

Any character trait you want your child to have, you have to model.  Be it politeness, consideration or love, they have to see it played out between Mom and Dad, relatives, and friends.  If somebody you know is struggling with an illness or going through a rough patch and your child sees you bringing them some soup or baking them a pie, they are going to grow up with that as a reflex notion. 

Finally, giving your kids whatever they want or letting them do whatever they want is not how you should show them love.  Children are not your friends – they are wild little creatures that have to be socialized and made into decent human beings so they can produce something of value in the world.  Love is shown through actions (i.e. the time we spend with them, and the gentle touches, hugs and kisses we give them).  Let them know when they’ve done something really well or you are impressed with them.  Give them little gifts now and then.  It doesn’t have to be anything major, just look for little, silly things they might like.  For example, I remember when my kid was little and I was bouncing around the country for short bursts (a day or day and a half), I’d buy him a keychain from every city.  I came close to missing the plane a couple times while I was trying to find a keychain, but it was worth it because it made him happy to know I was thinking about him.  He’d put them all on his backpack. 

When you do something for your kid without them expecting you to do it for them, you provide a better model of love.  Just say, “I know you’ve been under the weather,” or “I see you’ve been working really hard at school.”  “How about I make your favorite dinner?,” or “How about we sit and watch your favorite movie (with some unbuttered popcorn)?” 

Being an effective parent is in your power.  Take responsibility, and you’ll take away the attitude.