Wednesday, February 20, 2008


How do you talk about your in-laws?

Mother-in-law jokes are a staple of comedy acts. Complaining about a son or daughter-in-law is considered normal in some circles. And as we joke and complain about our in-laws, our spouse, our children and our grandchildren are listening.

On the other hand, consider what happens when we treat our in-laws with respect and affection: we don't feel guilty. We reinforce the idea that being part of this family is a good thing. We build a good relationship, as far as we are able to do that.

I was in Henry, Illinois this morning to talk with the River Valley MOPS group – what a delightful group of young women! They were gracious and hospitable, and I so enjoyed meeting them!

I grew up in Henry, so after the meeting I was able to take The Nostalgia Tour, driving by the house we lived in, the place where my dad managed a Kroger store, past Perdew's Hill where we spent thrill-filled hours sledding in the winter. Driving past Waterworks Park, my husband and I noticed how high the Illinois River is after recent snows.

Henry was – and still is, I'm sure – a wonderful place to grow up, and it was good to be there for a few hours.

Our grandparents all used to come visit us there, and I remember my mom and dad welcoming them warmly whenever they would come. I knew sometimes it wasn't convenient to entertain company even if they were family, but mom and dad went out of their way to make them feel welcome.

As a result, all my brothers and my sister and I were glad they were there too. We had good relationships with our grandparents, in large part because my parents nurtured those relationships. Their respect for their parents translated itself into opportunities for us to know and love our grandparents.

What a different outcome if mom or dad had complained about those frequent visits! If they had made jokes at their expense, those jokes would surely have invited us to regard our grandparents with a measure of ridicule. Instead, their respect and regard for them made a positive impression on us, and we considered respect for our grandparents to be a normal response.

Sadly, when we replace respect with complaints or disrespect, we tear down our family. We imply that, because there is something funny or just plain wrong about our spouse or our in-laws, there might be something wrong with our kids – after all, those people are their family!

Respect is an important component of healthy family life. The respect we have for our spouse, as well as for our in-laws, becomes part of the foundation of our family's self-image. How we talk about one another is one measure of respect.

A wise person builds her house and her family carefully. A generous measure of respect is a good thing to add to the foundation!

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