Things you should never say to your Malaysian mother-in-law

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Tip: Learning to steer the conversation in a different direction can help nurture healthier communication!

I’m sure many married women would admit that communicating with their mothers-in-law can be tricky, in fact I do think it is completely natural to feel like you’ve oversaid a few things or have had your foot in your mouth. Or perhaps you are just completely clueless as to what to say to your husband’s mum, so you hardly say a word at all.

There are so many factors that can affect communication between families. We are multi-cultural, are brought up with differently and have varying personalities. This diversity includes race, religion, ethnicity, culture, language and the list goes on and on.

There are some points that are better left unsaid but if you do make a mistake in uttering these phrases, remember to steer the conversation in a different direction!

1. “Come over anytime!”

Unless you really mean anytime, everytime and at whatever time she pleases. Saying this only sets an atmosphere for misunderstanding and even hard feelings down the road.

What your mother-in-law might hear is, ‘Ok lah, I can chinchai invite myself any time. I don't need to check with you first,’ which was not what you really meant in the first place. Unless she’s bringing durians of course.

But jokes aside, you’re better off inviting your mother-in-law over, so that she is aware there are boundaries set. Try instead: “We’d love to have you over. Just call first, in case we’re not home.”

2. “You tell your son lah.”

Perhaps you don’t want to deal with your mother-in-law’s advice or input, so you rope in your husband to play middle man. Not only are you putting your husband in a difficult situation, but he could end up being resentful being caught between you and his mother.

Don't teach the kids that it is OK to avoid problems you have with someone. Try showing them how to resolve conflict and mend relationships by pairing up with your husband to field any feedback from his mom as a team.

3. “My kids are my kids!”

So maybe your mother-in-law has a different way of parenting, which you strongly disagree on, but she has decided to interfere anyway, because the force is strong in that one. Try not to loose your temper and put her in her place.

Instead, acknowledge you are aware she means well, but at the same time set the boundaries by telling her nicely that her way is not what both of you and your husband have agreed on.

4. “Your son is a jerk!”

If you’re having the mother of all fights with your husband, no matter how good your relationship is with your mother-in-law, you do not go and tell her, her son is being a jerk. She raised your husband, so remember that her loyalties will almost always be with her son. Call your bestie instead if you need to vent.

5. “Our family better lah.”

And maybe deep down you really do think so. But there is no need to say it and risk setting yourself on the wrong foot. Actually why would you even go there. You must always take heed how this could make your husband’s family feel, particularly his mother. There is no need to create a competitive stance between families.

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