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March 13, 2007 / missknowitall

Cruel Step Mother In-Law

Dear Little Miss,
My mother-in-law happens to be an honest-to-goodness cruel step-mother. She is terrible to my husband’s step-brother. He is blamed for everything and then irrationally punished. He was grounded on his birthday and she wouldn’t even wish him a happy birthday. She tells him what he can and cannot eat(he is 17 years old!) and last Sunday she wouldn’t even let him eat with the family because there weren’t enough seats at the table. She makes him work his butt off while my sisters-in-law get to watch T.V. We don’t live very close, but whenever we are around she says we don’t see what he is really like and she tells us how much she hates him. She blames him for her marital problems. If we try to defend the poor kid, she gets mad at us. I am honestly worried that she is doing emotional damage. I don’t know what to do.

Dear Witness To Cruel Behavior,

Hmmm, the evil step-mother-in-law. Sounds like the perfect modern day fairytale villainess.  I’m not sure if anyone can solve a problem that tough (and you know it’s gotta be bad if I won’t even pretend to know the answer).  Sadly, I doubt there is anything you could do to change this woman, or to even get her to see what she is doing to the poor boy.  It sounds like she has a ready made excuse for anything she is confronted with; and it is almost always impossible to reason with someone who takes on the role of victim, even when they are creating the problems.  The good news is that there is plenty you can do for your husband’s step-brother.  Reach out to him and let him know that he is loved and is esteemed as valuable and worthwhile in your eyes.  Invite him for weekend visits at your home.  Have your husband call him on weeknights to ask him about school and life in general.  Help him to prepare for college and getting a job.  Don’t coddle him or baby him, but let him know that the world does not share your step-mom-in-law’s opinion of him.  Don’t talk bad about your SMIL in front of the brother or you may teach him to feel like a victim, and that is the last thing you want to instill in a soon-to-be-independent young man.  Instead, support him and allow him to feel he can rise above anything that life throws in his way because he has people who are cheering him on and who expect him to be the best he can be.  Remember he will soon be 18 and able to change his situation in life if he is guided in the right direction.  

On a side note, and I hate to say this but I know it works:  Stop trying to convince the SMIL that the boy is wonderful or that she is being mean.  The harder you try to convince her that she is in the wrong, the more she will blame him and “punish” him.  She will blame him for any low opinion you would express about her.  So, nod your head at everything she says, validate her feelings, then say, “I understand.  Let us help out by taking him off your hands for an afternoon”.  Then take him out for cheeseburgers and a movie.  

Maybe I’ll be a SMIL for Halloween this year 😉

Miss Knowitall




Leave a Comment
  1. Emily / Mar 14 2007 9:33 am

    Thanks Lil Miss, it is wortha a try!! Have a great day!

  2. WeakHubby / Sep 12 2007 11:05 pm

    Your mother-in-law does not sound as bad as mine. I used to get angry at my wife and slapped her once, resulting in my summons in my mother-in-law’s home. She told me that if I want to stay with her daughter I would have to be treated by a psychiatrist. It sent chills down my spine and I found myself apologizing to her. I did not go to the psychiatrist because she meant it as a warning.

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