Raising a family involves millions of decisions each day, and millions of opportunities to make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes people say things that are bound to do damage. That’s a mistake.

If people give themselves a minute to consider their responses, they can always find a way to say what they mean without harming a relationship. Here are five things a daughter-in-law should never say to her mother-in-law.

1. “You know squat about parenting today!”

Daughters-in-law: Did your mother-in-law do some things years ago that are frowned on by the parenting establishment today? Probably. Are you doing things that will seem hopelessly ignorant to your kids when they become parents? You bet.

If in-laws offer well-meaning advice that goes against current trends or personal choices about child-raising, hear them out, thank them for their input — and go on following your own instincts. But above all, keep listening: They’re bound to be right eventually, and you’ll want to be there.

2. “I won’t let you see the kids again!”

This is a trump card you can always use against your mother-in-law, but you shouldn’t. Maybe you came from a family that allowed communication to break down for extended periods of time. Rise above it.

Maybe this is the kind of thing your mother-in-law says to her own extended family. Don’t follow her example. Think of karma, and your own children. You would never want them to say this to you. So don’t let them hear you say it to their grandma.

3. “You do more for THEIR kids than ours!”

Sibling and in-law rivalry can reignite when grandchildren enter the family picture. Even if you can prove — with timetables and pie-charts — that grandparents are playing favorites, find another way to get more attention for your kids.

If your mother-in-law is more involved with other grandchildren, it may be because she feels her input is more welcomed, or needed, in those homes. If you want her to babysit, maybe you simply need to ask.

If you think she should spend more time with your children, reach out and invite her to plan some outings with the kids on their own terms and at their convenience. Then get out of the way.

4. “You’re too selfish to be any help!”

Well, which is it: Do you want her to stay out of your way, or take a bigger role in your family? Sometimes a grandmother just can’t win. The truth is, she has earned the right to be a little selfish with her time.

That’s the great thing about being a grandparent: All the joy, (almost) none of the responsibility. Instead of finding fault in whatever she does, be grateful that her life doesn’t revolve around your kids — but keep her close so she can pitch in when you really need her.

5. “You’re my model for how NOT to parent!

Really? Unless your spouse was abused, it’s likely that his parents tried their best to do right by him, and, as they say, he turned out all right. Maybe your mother-in-law was stricter than you would have been; but if your kids are still little, you don’t know for sure how much strictness you have in you yet.

But no matter the circumstances, this accusation won’t help your family. Confront your mother-in-law, calmly, on specific issues, if you have to clear the air. You may find she’s more flexible, and thoughtful, than you thought.

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Why It Matters

In the end, the model of your relationship with your mother-in-law should be one of the greatest gifts you give your kids. So before you say something everyone will regret, stop, think, and say something else.

Consider this the golden rule: Show your kids how you respect their grandparents, so that when you are a grandparent, they will know to do the same for you.

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