Dear Jido – January 2021


Dear Jido,

I have a lovely mother-in-law. She is an amazing grandmother and I can rely on her to do what she says she will do. However, she can also be selfish and overstep boundaries, and this seems to be getting worse as she ages.

When I ask her questions, like does she want to do this or visit on this date, or when I try to gently establish a boundary, sometimes I get a look and a non-answer. But, it is not because she doesn’t hear me. Typically it’s when she doesn’t want to do something or doesn’t agree with me, but I am not sure. I don’t expect her to agree or to say yes, but sometimes I do need an answer to continue planning. I just feel it’s rude not to respond or say SOMETHING. I have said things like, “What do you think?” and I still get a non-answer. It feels like a control tactic to me.

Any suggestions?


Dear Controlled,

So what’s the question? Of course, you’re being controlled. It is very likely just one way of her asserting and maintaining her independence. I am not suggesting that you were being disrespectful, just that she is, in effect, telling you, “No, uh-uh, I’m still in charge, not what I want, figure something else out.”

So what DO you do when you need to make a plan? Tread lightly and do it with love. MAYBE even sit next to her and hold her hand. Try this:

“Grandma, I was thinking of doing X on Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday.
Which do you prefer?”
If she answers, fine. If not, say, “I like Thursday. What do you think? 10:30 or 12:00?”
If she answers, fine. If not, say, “It’s better for me at 10:30.”
If she answers, fine. If not, say “Okay, Grandma, so I’ll see you
Thursday at 10:30. Bye. Love you.”
If she answers, fine. If not, say, “Bye, see you then.”

She’ll probably tell you, “Okay, 1 o’clock on Wednesday,” before you get to the door and then you can negotiate from there.