When your in-law raises an eyebrow at the way you manage your home or take care of your husband and the kids — at the way you do things in general, really — it’s always a toss-up between taking the high road and taking a stand. Do you just take the hit for fear of rocking the boat? Do you snap back and risk getting on her bad side forever?
Of course, you don’t want to just take everything she tells you, but you don’t want to disrespect her either. Let’s try to marry the two, shall we?
Here are some tips to help you construct polite comebacks that you can use to get your in-laws off your back.
1. Invoke a higher authority ...and by higher authority, we don’t mean a divine being. We’re referring to your child’s pediatrician, or teacher, guidance counselor, your doctor, an author of a best-selling book you read — heck, you can even try to name-drop some famous celebrities if it will help. This works best when your in-law calls you out for not doing what she did way back when it worked wonders during her time. You don’t follow her advice because, well, it’s simply outdated.
2. Play the “united front” card As husband and wife, you make decisions for your family, whether it be where to dine out this weekend, or how to discipline the kids. This means play the “Pinag-usapan na po naming mag-asawa ito,” or “Ito po ang bilin ng anak ninyo sa akin.” It’s unlikely that she would try to go against it, or go on and talk nasty knowing that her son has given his consent to what you’re doing. As a follow-up, if she still has a problem, she can talk to her son about it.
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3. “We both want the same thing.” There shouldn’t even be an argument because you both share the same end goal here. But in-laws can be a tad too nitpicky sometimes, so this comeback style is only applicable if the issue isn't really a big a deal. It’s most effective if your way of doing things differs from how she would do it, such as, say, how you would cook adobo—it won’t really matter when the end result is still a dish that the family can enjoy.
4. All the best This one is a double-edged sword. Say you did the best you can do, or that you tried your best. But you can’t please everybody, your in-laws included. You might ask, but why say it? It’s an effective comeback only when your in-law is taken aback by your honesty and humility. This could then either prove that she’s right and hopefully stop nagging you, or it could make her change her antagonistic approach to understanding your position. She might even actually help you.
5. Love or laugh They say love is the answer to everything and that laughter is the best medicine. Well, these could be your last resort. If all else fails, disarm your in-law by telling her that you love her even if she’s very critical of you. You might be surprised at how she reacts to it. If you want to lighten the atmosphere, choose laughter. But make sure you don’t make fun of her. The idea is to deliver a comeback that would pave the way for peace, not war.
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6. Reason with caution. This one is tricky since you might end up blowing things out of proportion. Let’s face it, the elderly hate being wrong because, you know, “Papunta ka pa lang, pabalik na ako,” as the famous line goes. However, when you have a valid point and your reason for pushing an issue is really for educational purposes, then go ahead and say your piece — but tread with caution. Sometimes in-laws can be open to change, but those instances are rare. Know when to just drop it.
As with any dealings with in-laws, you have to choose your battles. Just because you have this arsenal of comebacks doesn't mean you can use them all the time. While you’re at it, remind yourself that she carried your husband in her womb for nine months and raised him to be the man that you love, and she’s also your kids’ loving lola, so keep your tone calm and respectful.