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In-laws vs me: kids and religion


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Having an issue lately with my mother-in-law. My wife's parents live with us in our house. She has decided she is going to indoctrinate our kids into her religion and I don't approve of this.


I'm an atheist myself, and my wife deist at most. Basically, ours is not a religious home and that's the way we like it. But my wife's mother has been "teaching" the kids certain things that I don't feel they're ready to understand, and requiring them to say things like "thanks to god, amen!" after meals.


I am strongly against indoctrinating children into religion. It's not reasonable to say a child is a christian anymore than you would expect them to tell you if they're republican or democrat. They don't understand that stuff or the reasons behind it. Doing and believing things because you're told you're "supposed to" doesn't equal knowledge and understanding. These are things one should be informed about and understand before taking a position on. It is not the right of anyone to tell someone else what their beliefs "should" be.


This woman does not have the right to brainwash my kids about what they're supposed to believe and say. I had always planned on discussing religion and other intellectual matters with them when they're older, and I favor a "teach, not preach" method. I want them to know ABOUT religions, but I don't want anyone other than them to decide which mythology is more "true" than another ..and I wanted them to be older, more mature, and more informed, before having to make those decisions.


But it seems my mother-in-law is forcing my hand. I can't let this go unanswered. I haven't said anything to her yet, but this morning after breakfast, I did have a few words on the subject with my son in private. I didn't want it to come to that, but she's escalating this and I feel I've already ignored it too long. She tried this a couple years ago, but it seemed to stop for a while, and now she's doing it again more frequently and blatantly.


She believes a lot of things that I consider nonsense, be it religion or old-wives-tales. If she wants to live her life that way, fine. That's her business. But when she starts putting that stuff on me or my kids, it becomes my business. I've been looking the other way with it for a long time, but I'm getting tired of it. I'm getting tired of my kids getting grief from her for things that are nonsense.


My wife mostly agrees with me. At least we generally agree about what's nonsense. But she's unwilling to come to any kind of confrontation with her mother about it. She usually just goes along with whatever her mom is doing, even if she doesn't really agree with it. I don't feel I should have to be the one to talk to HER mom about this, but I've been unable to get her to do anything about it. She doesn't see it as a big deal.


The two older kids are step-kids, and to be fair, a bunch of this stuff has been going on since before I came into the picture. That's the main reason why I haven't confronted her about it. But someday she's going to start with MY baby (who is quickly approaching 2yrs). The first time I see her pull this with my daughter, my response will be quick and ungracious, I have no doubt. But I'm starting to wonder if a response can wait that long.


I've already started dropping hints with the kids when she walks away like " ...you know, you really don't have to say that", and this morning I finally went past hinting and had an actual talk with my stepson. It's bothering me that she thinks she has the right to require the kids to go along with this stuff. The simple fact is that my home will not be one where religious dogmas are required. She is trying to teach them otherwise and she needs to keep that crap to herself.


Maybe my wife is right and it's no big deal. But even if the impact will end up being limited, that doesn't make it right. There are not many principles I usually feel too strongly about, but this is one of them.

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Grandma is obviously testing her limits with you in the same way kids do.


If your wife won't support you on this, all you can do is talk to her and say that you don't find such things acceptable in your house at your dinner table.


Or you can fight it in a humorous way, as in after she demands they say that, then you demand they thank the Wiccan gods, and buddha, and the Great Spirit, and any other gods of religion you can think of. Everytime she does it, you also have them thank all the other gods too. It will annoy her no end, and you can tell her you'll stop thanking the other gods when she stops requiring they thank HER god.


Just try to put it in perspective for your kids and her too, that her way is not the only way, and that she doesn't have the power to change your kid's values in her own direction.


So do a little research on other religions, and start saying prayers in all religions, and tell the kids tonight you will celebrate with the Buddhist prayer, or the Wiccan prayer, or a Navaho prayer. it will stop things in its tracks i am sure.

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It sounds like your wife has always felt threatened and bullied by her mother and that is why she is not standing up to her. Unless you get a united front with your wife, your mother in law might use this as a way to drive a wedge between you and your wife. This is very tricky. The last thing you want to do is get your children in the midst of a power struggle between you and your mother in law. I think you need to have a real hear to heart talk with your wife. Find out why she doesn't want to stand up to her mother. Unless you can get her on board I can't see how you talking to your mother in law will solve anything....you can try but don't be surprised if she continues her behaviour not only in front of you but behind your back. This is a power struggle more than a religious struggle.

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It's all about things being done her way. She's straight out said that I "need to learn how things are done in this family" ..in other words, HER family, her ways. There is definitely a power struggle and I'm sorry to say the kids are usually caught in the middle. Whenever they hear two different things from us, they don't know who to listen to, but usually side with her and get in trouble with me for it. Or, if they do get themselves in trouble on their own and I punish them, she thinks its ok to cancel out my punishment (like if I take away a toy, she'll give it right back). However, when she punishes them, I don't interfere, even for the nonsense stuff.


I know the kids ultimately lose being caught in the middle, but I can hardly let this ignorant, obsessive, hypocritical control freak run my house and family with the authority I'm supposed to have. But we've already had numerous conflicts that has caused a lot of drama. My wife has talked about leaving me because of it. I'm reluctant to push things too much, because there is no way I can win. I either lose my power and role in the family, or I can lose the family all together.


I really wish I liked my mother-in-law more, but she is just so sour, bitter, disagreeable and unlikable. I think I would even have more tolerance of her interfering if she was at least nice/respectful about it. Her husband avoids her for the most part. Her own son has no plans to attend her funeral or desire to have her at his (his health is pretty questionable currently). Everybody knows "how she is", but nobody puts her in her place. There has always been arguing, but nothing ever changes. I tried to straighten her out once when we were first moving into this house, and it resulted in her threatening to leave.


That's how both she and my wife deal with things. They never resolve anything, they just cut and run (or threaten to) when things don't go their way. And of course, being as important as they are, the threats carry weight. Honestly, I wouldn't miss my mother-in-law for a second if she left. I would LOVE to have my house back. But I won't deny that we need her. I wish we didn't, but we do. If I was in dramatically different financial circumstances things would probably be different, but that's not the case.


Since I stood up to her, she doesn't confront me directly anymore. She says she "doesn't want to be talked to like that again". So instead, she complains about me behind my back to my wife, and she will reach for ANYTHING to complain about. My wife gets tired of hearing about it and then I hear about it from my wife. My wife, like the kids, gets caught in the middle. She doesn't get along with her mom much better than anyone else, but she won't back me against her either. Like her mom, she just threatens to take the kids and leave rather than actually get anything settled. And then at that point, out of fear of losing my family and having my life ruined, I do my best to appease everyone, even if I feel I shouldn't have to.


I've done better for this family than my wife or her mother ever did. Not to sound like a jerk, but they'd all still be living in a ghetto if not for me. I've worked hard to improve the standard of living for us all and now here we are. I still have no power and no say in anything. That just doesn't seem right. I know that in this country and this state, the woman has all the family/custody power for the most part. Leaving isn't an option for me. If I leave, I'm screwed. If my wife leaves. I'm screwed. I have to put up with her mother and give her a minimum number of things to complain about, or the drama builds up to a point where people threaten to leave, and I can't afford to find out if they mean it. But I can't concede on everything, and the unauthorized indoctrination of my children is one of those things.

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If you don't leave you are still screwed because you are held hostage. Not only is your mother in law disrespecting you but so is your wife. I know it is easy for me to say leave since I am not in those circumstances...but it sounds to me like you are living in a situation of emotional and verbal abuse...lots of women have had to leave those kinds of situations with only the shirt on their backs and they still made it through. Basically, if you don't want to leave you are going to have to suck it up and live like this..and it will go on long after your mother in law dies...because your wife is learning "the tricks of the trade" from her mother. When her mother dies, she will take over ruling the roost with an iron fist. Your children will end up suffering in the long run. This is a very unhealthy dynamic for your children. What about your parents...where do they come in to all of this?

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I think your best bet is to work on ways for you to move into your own place and not have the parents in residence.


Do you need to move into a smaller or less expensive house to do it on your own? Or get a better job that pays more money?


If that's what it takes, then do it to save your marriage and your sanity.


You may not be able to make the changes right away, but knowing you are working towards becoming independent will help you tolerate the situation better.

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It may be too late for this, but....


Do you think instead of asking her to stop, you ask her to adjust her approach to a more educational way. Show her some respect for HER beliefs while asking that your rights to decide what's appropriate for your own children is also respected....


You say you want them to learn about other religions. Why not start now? Prepare meals in accordance to other religions on their holidays, talk about them. And do it in a "Some of your friends at school celebrate this way, because their beliefs are that....." kind of way. The rituals involving food don't need to be served with a huge helping of Dogma. A simple explanation of what "kosher" means, or why Muslims do not eat pork are all I am talking about here. The details and debate can wait until they are older. I can't imagine that it would be harmful for a child of any age to understand basic elements like this.


Some other suggestions. Ask that mealtime prayer be limited to special religious occasions (Christmas, Easter etc.), and invite your MIL to explain the religious meaning of these special holidays at those times. Also- remind your children that sometimes, it is important to show respect for others beliefs, and that being familiar with their Grandmothers beliefs is important (Prayer at her birthday dinner would also show some respect). But clarify that they do NOT have to agree with, or practice the same rituals she chooses, but the occasional prayer is like a "gift" to her. Because it means something to HER. If you need to, clarify, that to Grandma, it is important to thank "HER GOD" for the meal..etc. (without sarcasm)


I get where you are coming from. But the best way to pull this back is NOT through an ultimatum, but rather looking for common ground and allowing her SOME opportunity to share with her grandchildren something that, to her, is extremely important.

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I totally agree .I was in a situation where my mother inlaw was using my wife to attain control in my house...I went nuts and laid down the law. You have to do this to see if your wife really respects you. If she doesnt then it is very very sad for you.

You will feel alone,unloved and empty. Luckily for me my wife did come around. My mother inlaw fears me but respects me at at the same time.

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Honestly, I wouldn't miss my mother-in-law for a second if she left...I won't deny that we need her. I wish we didn't, but we do. If I was in dramatically different financial circumstances things would probably be different, but that's not the case.


It sounds like you need her around because she's helping out financially.


If that's the case....I know it probably realllllly sucks, but I think you'll just have to tolerate it for now.


I would suggest evaluating the pros and cons of the situation.


She's a pain in the butt, but is it worth losing her financial assistance over?


If not, you'll just have to deal with it for now. But I wouldn't worry. It won't be like this forever.


And you could probably use this opportunity to make your relationship with your wife stronger.


With her mother at home, you could spend more time away from the house together.


If you and your wife reconnect, I think it'll become easier to stand United against your mother in law. You guys can find a way to work around her, without upsetting her. That way she won't leave.

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Man, I know what you are going through...to an extent.


My youngest brother is growing up in a home of a Christian crazed mother. She is very kind, and my dad loves her, but when a six year old tells me "No on is perfect but god"...I want to confront her and just tell her to let him make the choice when he is older.


I am not a believer in organized religion, but I do believe in something bigger than us, and I do believe in a soul, but I would never brainwash my kids at such a young age to believe in Jesus or any of that. If they choose to later in their life, I will no doubt support them, and would have zero problems with it.


I know people do it because the bible sets good examples, and may lead their kids to a better life, but that is the responsibility of the parents, not a 2000 year old book.


I don't judge anyone based on religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything, but it really hits home when my 8 year old brother is worried about living the life god wants him to live, rather than a life he wants to live.


Let the kids live. Let them be young. Where there biggest issue is making it accross the monkey bars. There is no need for them to worry about living a righteous life at such a young age.


I would tell my kid about religion when they are hitting there teens and can make a some what logical choice based on the religions beliefs, and not just based on what mommy or daddy told them was right.


To each their own, though!

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