We have all probably heard the old adage, “A daughter is a daughter for life. But a son’s a son ’til he takes a wife.”

As the mother of boys, this literally makes me want to cringe and cry at the same time! I would like to propose, however that this does not have to be true!

Although our relationship with our sons will forever change once they become husbands, it does not have to cease to exist altogether. The best way that we can maintain a relationship with our son is to love and accept his wife.

I have been blessed by a wonderful mother-in-law (and mother), but like every relationship, it has had its share of hurt feelings and miscommunication in the past. Although my children have not yet married, I thought I would write myself a few tips for being the best mother-in-law I can be! This is written based on what I have appreciated as a daughter-in-law and daughter (with a few wishes thrown in for good measure).

  1. Develop a one-on-one relationship with my daughter-in-law. Although my first instinct might be to want to spend one-on-one time with my son, it is vitally important to develop a lasting relationship with my daughter-in-law. Pedicures, window shopping, and eating out are all ways that I can spend some “girl time” with the most important woman in my son’s life. I need to make sure my daughter-in-law knows I enjoy spending time with her!
  2. Give advice only when asked. Yes, years and experience have (hopefully) given me wisdom. But my daughter-in-law will not appreciate my advice being heaped on her like a basket of dirty laundry. If or when she comes to me, I need to approach the matter gently without judgement. Also, when it comes to grandchildren, take into account the latest scientific research (sleeping on backs, children being secured in carseats, etc). Don’t try to force what I did with my kids as the “best” way to parent.
  3. Don’t allow my son to talk about marital tiffs with me. Let’s face it…as moms, it is hard to forgive someone who has hurt our children, even if it is unintentional or misinterpreted. Our sons can most likely forgive their wives much easier than we can forgive them. So unless it’s a very serious matter that requires our intervention, I will suggest that my son and daughter-in-law find an older mentor couple or even a counselor to discuss marital matters with. Nothing can ruin a relationship faster than a lack of forgiveness.
  4. Compliment her frequently. Most women I know are extremely self-conscious. A compliment from the most important woman in her son’s life, next only to her, will mean so much to my future daughter-in-law.
  5. Frequently offer to watch my grandchildren and express my utter enjoyment in doing so. Even the most tumultuous of relationships can quickly be mended when someone expresses love for our children. Offer to watch them frequently and without being asked. If my son and daughter-in-law live far away, always encourage them to go out on a date one night while we are visiting. Even offer to watch the kiddos so they can get away for the weekend! Couples need time to reconnect in the midst of the stresses of raising young children. They will be much more likely to do so if they know their children are being loved-on and well taken care of by their adoring grandparents.
  6. Honor the way my son and his wife have chosen to parent their child. If they have decided to be vegans who homeschool when you raised your children in public schools while eating steak every night … that is okay. Accept the decisions your son and daughter-in-law have made for raising their children and support them. No artificial dyes? Put away the Skittles. No spanking? Ask how they would like for you to discipline if the need arises.

A relationship is obviously a two-way street. I can do everything right and things might still be icy with my future daughter-in-law. After all, the only person I can control is myself. It is my greatest hope that my love and kindness toward this special young woman will go a long way toward forging a lifelong relationship.

{Editor’s Note: This post was written by “Ann Onymous” and was first published on MomLife Today in March of 2013, but with the holidays approaching we felt this was a great time to make sure our readers had an opportunity to hear this wise advice on family relationships!}