Seeking Advice About Mother Visits

Updated on January 28, 2007
S.K. asks from Lakeville, MN
15 answers

I need advice as to handle visits from my mother. Our relationship has always been poor and I am angered by how she treats my children when she comes to visit. She favors my daughter and undermines my authority with her. (Example: I ask daughter to get ready for bed and my mom immediately starts a game or story with her and says she doesn't have to go to bed yet.) On the other hand, I feel she is very mean to my oldest boy. When he asks for her attention, she says she is too tired or busy. Then my daughter walks up to her immediately afterwards, asks for attention and she jumps up to give it to her. When my son asks to join them, she tells him to go away or leaves the room with my daughter. She frequently pretends he is not there when he tries to talk to her.

She also scolds my son, locks him in his room without justification, and has complained about his weight. She has also completely ignored my children for days when they do something she doesn't approve of or sends a care package with tons of gifts for one child and one tiny thing for the other. (Example: My two year old got tired of posing for the camera after about 30 minutes and told my mother "no" when she asked her to pose again.)

I am especially sensitive to this because she did the same thing with me and my sister when we were little. My sister could do no wrong and I was always told that I was fat, unwanted and the shame of the family. I get defensive when I see her this way and despite my attempts to hide my feelings for her from my children, I think that they perceive the tension because I always see behavioral problems in them that don't show up at any other time.

I have confronted her about it and she acts shocked, confused and says that she is just trying to be a good grandmother. When I have asked her not to attempt to discipline my children she says that she is just "being supportive." Then she sulks and pouts for a while before going back to the same behavior. I believe that on some level she knows what she is doing is wrong because she is so perfectly behaved when my husband is around. But asking her not to do it anymore seems to be a lost cause.
She is not allowed to be left with my children unsupervised because of some other things that happened in relation to my father, but that is a whole other story. (He is no longer allowed any contact with my children.) Her visits are limited to 3 days a year. My husband believes that because her visits are so short and infrequent, her impact on our children's lives overall will be minimal. She is nice to my daughter and, unlike my father; I don't feel justified in denying her visitation completely. I think my children should have the right to get to know her and decide for themselves whether they want a relationship with her.

So how do I handle this? Do I need to let go of my angry feelings, let her do what she will and teach my children to be strong about it? Do I drag my husband into this and make him be around for the whole visit so she will behave herself? (I know that isn't fair to him and I should handle problems with my mother, but I am tempted to do it anyway.) How do I avoid all of the feelings from my childhood to come bubbling back up and cloud my judgment? Any suggestions or personal experiences would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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answers from Monroe on

I have a mother in law like that and it use to create major problems but i have learned to take charge in a respectful way and if the kids aren't treated the same than they tell her if not treated the same they don't want to be involved it's a family effort L.

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answers from Little Rock on

Wow! Let me first of all just say that I am very sorry about the way your mother is treating your kids. It sounds like a horrible situation, and not an easy one to figure out the right solutions to either.

I don't really want to go too much into my childhood (who does? haha) but when I was a kid I was abused by my step-father for several years. He told me I was stupid, would not amount to anything, would point out my physical flaws, and hit me. My mother and he divorced when I was almost 16, and they did have one child together, who is now 12 and lives with my mother but he gets visitation since he is no longer on drugs and isn't abusive anymore.

The reason that I bring all of that up is to say this... Even though I am a good mom, have a good outlook on life, will be going to law school soon, and am just completely different from that little girl he used to make life hell for, when I see him (drop off my sister at my mom's house or at my sister's basketball functions) I sometimes feel 10 inches tall and it just brings back all of those old emotions when I'm forced to be around him.

Do you feel the same way when you're around your mother? Because, although it seems like the easiest thing to remember, it's often the hardest when we're around these people who we had such negative feelings for as children. You're the adult now. You're the mom now. And as the mother to your wonderful children you need to seriously and firmly put your foot down. Don't take this... "Oh I was just trying to be supportive" B.S. from her! You tell her, with the authority that being those children's mother gives you, that she either goes by your rules when she's in your house or she is no longer invited. I know that sounds really harsh, but you do not want for her to negatively effect your children just because you don't want to hurt her feelings.

Another thing that I want to say is about my real father. It's a long story with us, but I didn't meet him until I was 16. He didn't know that I was his daughter, I didn't know he was my father. We tried to make our relationship work and it was always rough, but I thought that we were working it out. But, he always would put me down about my uncommon religious views, the fact that although my son's father and I have been together for almost 5 years and live together we're not married because we can't afford it since I'm in college, and because I'm a different political affiliation than he is. Eventually I got so sick of not being good enough for him that I cut him out of my life. Am I sad that I don't have a relationship with my biological father? You bet I am! There are times that I look at my son and I think about how he'll never know his grandpa and he'll cry! Then you know what?? I'll SNAP OUT OF IT and realize that not having him in my son's life is the BEST THING I COULD HAVE EVER DONE FOR HIM!!! Because I know that if my father were still in the picture, when my son got old enough (because hopefully he'll be as much as an out-of-the-box thinker as I am. haha) I'm sure my father would have told him that he was wrong in his beliefs and constantly make him feel bad for not doing things the way most other people do them. And that is one thing that no one is going to ever do to my son.

Just know this much... If you lay down the rules for your mother and she can't change her ways for the few short visits a year that she gets with her grandchildren...if seeing her grandbabies is not enough of a reason for her to keep her mouth shut and to play fair with everyone... then it was HER decision NOT yours to be kept out of her grandkids life. Don't feel guilty if you have to tell her she can't come around anymore. She's an adult and it's her decision to treat your children fairly. She's old enough to know what she's doing. She's not stupid, and I hate to say this.. but since she's only doing it when your husband isn't there... she's probably just doing it to piss you off.

You don't owe your mother anything. Just because you two are biologically related does not mean that you have to bend over backward and allow her to knowingly hurt your son's feelings. You might have to pick a side on this one... I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd say she didn't pick your side growing up on whatever the issue is with your father. Pick your kid's side, and every time you give them a kiss at night know you did the right thing and that you're a far better mother to them than she was for you. Will it hurt you to shut her out completely? Yes it will! But that might be the pain that you have to bear so that your children don't bear it later...

Good luck! I would love to hear an update on your story!!

You'll be in my thoughts and I mean that!!


PS--If you want to talk let me know! That's what mamasource is all aobut!! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I was totally shocked to read this request. Mostly because I didn't have a clue what to say...there are so many suggestions...then I read Jackie's response!! GO JACKIE! I think she hit the nail on the head, in everything she said. My first inclination, though, is always spiritually based. Then I think logically and try to put the two together. The first spiritually based answer doesn't always work on people who don't play by the rules to start with. (meaning loving them into corrected bahavior doesn't always work, especially if they're a little loo loo :)

There are so many other families that go through the same thing and are never strong enough to say "No! This isn't the way it will work in my home or for my children!!" Jackie's response couldn't have been more perfect. You can love her from afar, but protecting your children from mental anguish is your first responsibility. Stop the cycle with you as the loving, wonderful mother you're trying to be. The bible says to honor thy mother and father, but I know there's a little tid bit about loving and guiding your children as well. This is where you get to decide. Are your children's wellbeings worth honoring her visitations even if she doesn't play by the rules? You've been strong enough to say no to your father's visits (I'm sure that took a TON of courage), now you have to decide whether they suffer from her visitations, too.

Maybe even ask them how they feel about her. Do they have high selfesteems? Do they know she's full of bull and find her "little games" funny, or do they take to heart the poor behavior she's displayed? I've found some very thick-skinned well adjusted young individuals who could never get their feelings hurt by someone they only see 3 days out of the year, even if they call her "Grandma." If you have determined young individuals, you could even get them to "teach" grandma that poor behavior is not acceptable in your home. Not including a sibling in a game or story telling is considered poor behavior, and have your daughter ask to include her brother or refuse to participate. Dont' get me wrong, I can completely see this story going the wrong direction, my daughter would love the individualized attention, too. Especially if she thinks this one-on-one attention is the best, and she would feel elevated to the clouds, and quite especially since there's another young one involved because this sets her apart. So...this will take some pre-planning and teaching your children about grandma's sometimes strange behavior and that it's not acceptable. Obviously you don't want to sabbotage her, but it sounds like she does plenty of that on her own. Also, it will also take you pretending that grandma's behavior means nothing to you (no hurt). Humor me here and try to imagine how this would go...what I mean is that if she behaves poorly, the only response you get to have is a giggle and a kick out the door, much as you would if your child asked for one too many cookies. Do you see now the emotional response would be different. There's not much of an emotional response to too many cookies, just a simple "no" and re-direct of attention. So, you could laugh at her, explain that this is the exact behavior that is not acceptable (as it happens, not later) and ask her to leave. Plain and simple. No questions asked or answered. Also, you need to tell your children that it had absolutely nothing to do with them or anything they've done, just that grannie's a little cookey. If she doesn't have anywhere to go until her flight out, put her in a hotel room. Or better yet, she'll have to get her own hotel room! All assuming that she doesn't live right up the road.

I'm hoping that you've been able to move past most of the hurt your mother has caused you in your childhood, and maybe it only comes back up when you see her treating your children the same. If not, some counceling will do you a great deal of good, just make sure you ask for referrals so you get the best in your area.

The trick is to not allow her to have ANY MORE POWER! She can't do that to you again. You're "a big girl" now, and she only gets at the ones she feels she has power over. If you don't let her have power, she can't have any! It's yours and you don't have to share!! lol

Good luck to you. The holidays are an especially difficult time to implement such a direct and sensitive issue, but good for you for doing what's best for your little beauties! Among many other lessons, your daughter will learn how to be treated and your son will learn how to treat others. These are wonderful lessons, and they aren't the kind you learn in a classroom. You CAN do it! Have faith, take a deep breath, say a prayer, and do what you've been called to do. Your mamasource family is behind you all the way!

Prayers for you and your family. I'll also pray that your mother and father find a better way of treating others and come to realize their mistakes.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Shreveport on


I agree with the other ladies' comments. Tell your Mom what you expect from her and if she can't come thru, to hell with her! YOU are the advocate for your children so stand up, kick butt, and take names!!!:) Take care and good luck!!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Little Rock on

I can totally relate to your kids and to you as well. My step-father's parents and sister were terrible to me when i was growing up. My step brother could do no wrong, i could do no right, and my half brother did not exist. They even spelled his name wrong for the 1st 5 years of his life. I always took the stance that they were family and that's just how they were. If my parents interviened on my behalf, i never saw it. I was the first one to have children, they were good to my kids, until my step brother had children. Then his kids were angels and mine were soooo bad. My son is 5 and my daughter is 21 months old. I finally washed my hands of them last November. My kids dont ask about them or care where they are. You are the Mommy. If someone is mistreating your children, you have the right to cut them out. These people had been my grandparents for 22 years, but they were not good people. If you should decide they shouldn't see her and she still sends inappropriate care packages, take the stuff to Walmart, get in-store credit, and redistribute equally.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jonesboro on

I understand your situation completely!! I had to make a hard decision when I became a mother. My parents were not good parents, and I will leave it at that. But as parents it is our job to protect our children!! EVEN IF IT MEANS PROTECTING THEM FROM OUR PARENTS. I gave my parents an ultimatum. If they wanted to a part of my childrens lives then they were gonna learn how to be good grandparents and abide by MY rules. I now have the best parents and my children have the best grandparents but do not get me wrong!!! If I had to choose to protect my kids from my parents, I would cut them out of their life in a heart beat. I just feel like we have to be better parents than our parents were and sometimes that means taking a stand and sometimes it means teaching OUR parents how to be grandparents. I hope God blesses you this holiday season. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!



answers from Baton Rouge on

3 DAYS A YEAR,just keep reminding yourself of this. I come from a similar situation and have no contact with my father but my mother and I have resumed a relationship. Your children need to be around there grandmother as often as you can stand it. Remember teaching your children to perservere in the face of adversity is a great gift. I believe you need to let go of some of your anger towords your mother. You are being very picky about behavior that last for 3 days. If my child only saw her grandmother for 3 days a year she could stay up all night long to be with her. Go ahead indulge your mother and be prepared to reap the rewards you will feel in your heart for allowing yourself to love her.



answers from Houston on

i am certainly no expert, but first you need buyin support from your hubby. like it or not, he is already part of this. he needs to support you because when he married you he took vows to put you BEFORE everyone else (including mom). then have a calm face to face with grandma and tell what you have observed(favoritism). once she gets done with her "shocked" reaction, make clear you have observed this for quite some time and tell how much it bothers you. the last step is give her your "expectations" about equal time/treatment to both children. if she is not willing to do that, it sounds like her visits need to be limited to when you are present OR PERHAPS NOT AT ALL. again, your husband needs to back you and not be against you.



answers from Houston on

Hi S.!

Sorry to hear about all this. I will share my story as well, and I hope it helps.

My mother is bi-polar, very mentally unstable. She is a nag and she undermines my authority and nit picks every single thing I do. One day she even complained about how I cooked grits... I mean you can't mess up grits.. its just not possible. She means well and thinks she is helping, and she is desparately lonely. Its really quite sad. However my responsibility is for my own family first.

She no longer lives in the same town as me, and about 5 years ago she came to visit and stay with us for the birth of my first niece. She was off her medication, and called 911 twice once claiming a heart attack (at 3 AM) and the second time told the police that I left her alone (I went to work) and she was going to commit suicide. After this visit, when she ended up on suicide watch in a local mental hospital for the rest of her visit, I had to make new rules.

After she went home and things got back to semi-normal I told my mom that in the future if she were to visit she would have to have her own transportation and her own lodging arrangements. She was never to be left alone in my house, she could no longer sleep at my house, nor ever left alone with my children. I told her I loved her but she knew she was sick and that my responsibility was for my own sanity and my childrens safety #1.

Now this works really well. I talk to my mom on the phone, but only when she talks like a normal well behaved person. If she starts ranting about something from the past or giving me some bull story or whatever I shut her down. I tell her "I am not going to discuss this with you" if she continues I hang up. It only took me hanging up twice before she got the message that I was serious.

She has come to visit a few times since the visit described above and she doesn't stay with me. I will invite her over to the house to visit the children for maybe 2-3 hours tops, usually the invitation is for dinner, then we send her back to the hotel. This however makes me feel a tad guility, I admit.

I have found a solution that works rather well and makes my guilt go away! I found that the best way to spend time with her and the kids and having the least drama is to take them all somewhere public. Take them to the zoo, an aquarium, museum, trip to the mall. Make a day of it, start with breakfast at IHOP or something go somewhere and eat lunch then more activity and then the day is over you have to go home and eat dinner and put the kids to bed early cause they are tired.

This way they get time together but she is on best behavior in public and any strange behavior is overlooked in the kids excitement for being someplace fun. If she favors one child, you can lavish attention on the other, either way both child gets special attention.

I have also convinced her that the kids prefer money. She gives them $25 and they have to buy something they both want together. I told her this helps them share and be good shoppers and learn about money and do math. This makes her feel like she is contributing to "helping" with them. Actually she just called me this week and asked for my address to send them their $25 christmas money >.<

Good luck!



answers from Baton Rouge on

Boy, do I know how you feel. My mom and dad just came to visit last week, and it made me remember why I moved 1,000 miles away from them. I love my parents, because they are my parents, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. My mother has always treated me like a child, and it wasn't until this last visit, that I finally stood up for myself, and told her that this was my home, and my family, and if she didn't want to follow the rules of my house, then she was free to leave. There was an automatic change in her behavior. Probably, because I had heard that same speech from her, after I turned 18, and was still living at home.
Just remember, you have a responsibility to your husband and your children, and if your mom doesn't want to follow the rules of your family, than she'll have to not be a part.
Take care,
E. B.



answers from Houston on

If she's only ALLOWED to see them 3 days a year, there is more going on than you are telling. I agree with your husband, that's not enough to scar them unless her uneven packages arrive frequently. However, because she obviously upsets you-

I don't understand why you would permit her to lock your son in his bedroom? If her behavior is so deplorable regarding bedtimes and giving them equal attention, maybe you could limit the visits to a meal out at a restaurant. The most harm she could do is sit by one child and not the other. At the minimum, don't have her over without your husband being home since you remarked she will behave herself around him. As far as your own disciplinary rules with your own children - yes, she absolutely needs to abide by them. Don't be shy about it. Afterall, she visits them in your house!

Good luck! She sounds like she has a world of problems that you don't need.



answers from New Orleans on

your son is old enough that he'll notice the disparities between her behavior with his sister and him. you have to put your foot down and you have to let your son (who probably feels guilty, sad or unworthy when he gets treated so calously) know that his feelings are a normal response to your mother's actions and that she was not acting well. (maybe not in front of her, use bedtime talks or take him aside while granny's fussing over his sister.) you are your kids' only advocate. you have to draw the line with acceptable behavior, and you have to let them know their feelings about the woman are ok, and her actions are not. silence=submission=agreement



answers from Fayetteville on

Hello, S.! I'm so sorry that you have this problem. I have also had a similar problem with some of my family. This is my advice to you, tell your mother that you and your children have noticed the difference that she makes between your children. Tell her that is unacceptable. If she wants to continue visiting with your children that she needs to treat them the same. (If she gets one a present, she gets them all a present that is equal. If she is playing a game with one and the other wants to join in on the fun, that she plays something they all can play.) Also, tell your mother that she is to respect your decisions when you need to disipline your children, and not tell your children they can continue to do whatever they want to. If she can't respect your requests to treat your children equally than I would not allow her to continue to see them. As you were saying when you were a child that she treated you and your siblings differently. You still remember that and how does that make you feel still today? You don't have to allow your mother to treat you or your children in an unkind way. Your mother needs to be fully aware of how her unfair treatment to you and your children makes you all feel. I hope this helps you. It is hard to stand up to your mother, but you have the right to be treated with love, respect, and kindness. So do your children. Good Luck!



answers from Fort Smith on

I know exactly what you are going through. My grandmother did pretty much the same thing with my children. I started denying her visits with them, changed my phone number moved 140 miles away (yeah, a little extreme). Anyways, when we moved back closer she took me to court for grandparent rights.. and got awarded 1 weekend a month. This was before my youngest was born, and wanted nothing to do with my middle son.. in fact my oldest son was the "package deal" cause she only wanted my daughter. I did everything I could, within the law, to keep her from taking them for her weekends.

My grandmother would never allow anything she bought them to leave her house, which included clothes and toys. While they were in her care, she didn't make a my daughter feed herself, bathe herself, dress herself, etc. In fact, I started proceedings to have the visitation disolved the day I walked in to pick them up when my middle son was about 18 mo's old sitting in a high chair feeding himself.. covered in spaghetti while she was sitting at the table feeding my daughter who was 4yrs old at the time. My daughter is now 16 and still has this whole idea that she doesn't have to do anything for herself and her and my oldest son (who is 17) do not get along. Which is actually putting it lightly, counseling didn't help at all with those 2. And it goes beyond normal sibling rivalry. He refuses to ride the bus, cause she's on it, will sit as far away as possible from her at meal times, will leave the room if she comes in, and won't speak to her unless it's to insult her. I feel that the problems they are having is a direct result of my grandmother with the anger he feels towards my daughter and the "princess" mentality she has. It took 3 yrs to get that visitation disolved, by way of nature. 3 wks before we were to see the judge my grandmother died. Which (sad and horrible to say) was a relief from all the fighting with her.

In my experience it caused so many more problems unforseen at that time. My suggestion is, if she's on her "best behavior" while your husband is around, then make him stick around while she's visiting. It will save you a lot of problems and heartache in the long run. If the things she's doing seems unfair to you as an adult, imagine what your son is feeling about it cause he doesn't understand. Good luck!! I know how long of a road this is going to be.



answers from Fayetteville on

I think that your mother has underlying issues that need to be addressed her self before anything can be done with your relationship or the ones with your kids. YOur soul purpose is to protect your kids and if it means limiting their contact with your mother than that may have to be it.
My mother is the same way to some extent. SHe acted like she despised my son for so long so I quit letting him be around her, then she, on her own, snapped out of it and started being a real grandmother. I just made sure that my son knew that he was important to me and no matter what anyone else thought, he was the the only thing that mattered. Make sure your kids know that they are all loved equally by you before you talk to them about it. At 5, my son realized what was going on and I was able to talk to him about it. He was upset at first, but then we had a mother-son day that made him feel special. Good luck.

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