Dear Dr. Yael,
I read the letter in your column from the parents whose children don’t appreciate them and, while I am part of what people call the “Me Generation,” I agree with your response.
My husband and I have the utmost respect for both sets of parents. One set is very well off financially and very generous to us – I prefer not to say which side. We both work hard, but as Jewish life today is expensive, we appreciate their help.
The sad thing is their generosity comes with strings attached. This set of parents has huge expectations. We need to go away with them for Yom Tov to hotels and programs they choose even though it is hard to go away with young children. They helped us buy our house, but it had to be near where they live. It’s a nice area and we are grateful, but it’s hard to always be told what to do.
I think children should have great respect for their parents. The person in your letter did not seem to have unrealistic expectations, however, it’s important for people to know that there is another side. Not all children are ungrateful and not everyone in today’s generation is spoiled. Sometimes I wish that we didn’t take their money, but I have a feeling they would try to control us regardless.
Tell me, Dr. Respler, what should married children, who have great derech eretz for their parents, but whose parents don’t respect their independence do? Why would parents want to control their married children? We are so loving, so appreciative and considerate. We invite them over often and make beautiful meals. Yet nothing seems good enough.
On the other hand, the other set of parents cannot give us as much financially; yet, they are so loving to us and our children. They are not controlling and respect us tremendously.
The sad thing is that the rich set of parents had parents who treated them they way they treat us. They pride themselves on being different than their parents, but they are not.
Any ideas on how to handle this situation?
Someone from the “ME GENERATION”
Dear Someone from the “ME GENERATION,”
It is very difficult when parents try to control their married children and it’s hard to manage the situation without hurting them.
As always, a conversation is in order – when this set of parents are in a calm mood. You can begin by saying how much you appreciate everything they do for you and telling them how much you love them. Explain that having a young family is hard at times and that it is important that you and your husband make the right decisions for your family, but it is hard for you to tell them that what they want doesn’t always make sense for you. Share that you need to become more independent and would like their help in doing so. Maybe if they feel that they are helping you, they will be okay with what you are asking of them. Just remember to try to keep your voice calm (sometimes when we’re feeling defensive, we get a little high pitched or excited, which will only exacerbate the conversation). If you stay calm and even, then your message will be better received. Also, remember to stay away from blaming them in any way. If you start sounding accusatory, then the conversation will go downhill quickly. It is imperative that you are in a good mood when you have the conversation, so that you will have the strength to say the right things in the right way.
Even if your parents (or in laws) are receptive, you cannot expect a change overnight. You will also have to learn some ways to protect yourself from some of their controlling behavior. For example, try not to ask about something that you want to take care of independently, and try not taking from them – it will make it easier to make your own decisions. Yom Tov is a tricky topic because although it may be hard to go away, it’s understandable that your family wants you to be with them. You and your husband will have to decide if that topic is worth broaching.
Hatzlocha with this tricky task and let us know how it goes!