Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Mother-in-Law Takes Discipline Too Far

DEAR HARRIETTE: I found out that my mother-in-law spanked my child. I don't spank my children, and I don't believe in that type of discipline. I asked her to not hit my child, but she keeps finding other ways to discipline, like pinching or plucking his hands when he does something “bad.” I constantly tell her not to use corporal punishment on my son and have given her the ways we discipline him at home, but she thinks they aren't effective.

She is my son’s grandmother, so she thinks she has rights, but she must stop. I need her to respect me and the way I raise my child. How can I get my mother-in-law to stop hitting my child? -- Distressed Daughter-in-Law, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR DISTRESSED DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: It is essential that the ways in which you discipline your children remain consistent among anyone who is allowed to discipline them. Period. That goes for your mother-in-law.

Since your mother-in-law refuses to follow your rules, you may have to limit her interaction with your son. This may seem harsh, but it may be your ultimate recourse. Tell her that if she will not curb her disciplinary tactics, she will not be allowed to be with your son alone anymore. This will horrify her, perhaps enough to get her to stop. If she continues, you will need to follow through until she listens to you.