Critical and Negative Family Members at Holidays:what do you do?

Hi all. Without going into all the details, I’d love to hear ideas on how to deal with the relatives during the holidays. DH and I both come from families who are non-complimentary, critical, and difficult. It is stressful to be with them at the holidays. I am having Thanksgiving this year. I’m already getting negative comments and difficulties from the ILs. I’m rather stressed with other family commitments and it is hard to get excited about the holidays with all the negativity. Different problems with my side of the family, but equally as unpleasant. Truly, I LOVE holidays. I get excited about them and want to “do them up” right. I’d love to use the good china and decorate/pretty things up. Yet, the ILs will “make fun” of my efforts if I do so. Generally, even with set tables and centerpieces, the ILs will plant themselves in front of the TV for dinner. It’s disheartening. I want my kids to remember fun holidays. Yet, I get so stressed beforehand, that I am like Dr. Jekyl. I know I have to let it all roll off my back, but HOW???

Here is a secrete just between you and me, they don’t know what they are missing. :wink: Who get to enjoy the excitement, and enjoy all the decorations? After are they are probably sitting there watching some bad TV program.:confused:


I would first try to ignore the negativity, as you seem to be trying to do. You and your immediate family are entitled to make your own holiday traditions, seperate from the way the inlaws think it should be done.

A tip from a psuedo-Southern-belle…use sweetness to get them back and make it appear that you’re either ignoring the negativity or NOT GETTING IT because you’re having such a great holiday:

ILs: "Gianna, these plates are silly!"
Gianna: “Well, sweetie, would you like to help me set the table please?”

ILs: "Look at all the time G wasted on those centerpieces, they’re so hoity-toity and she thinks she’s so amuch better than us!"
Gianna: “I just LOVE Christmas, don’t you? I love decorating for the holidays, thanks for noticing!”

ILs: "OMG I’m afraid to drink out of these frou-frou wine glasses"
Gianna: “Aren’t they wonderful? A friend gave them to us.”

So it’s just “negative” rebuffed with “positive” the whole time. And when all else fails you can tell them after the celebration that you want to help your family make new holiday traditions that you’ll all remember, and would they please try not to compare your traditions to theirs in front of everyone while you’re all trying to have a good time.

People eventually realize that YOU are being graceful and polite and all they’re accomplishing is making themselves look like *sses, repeatedly. Then they stop!!

People say those snooty things to make you uncomfortable…to enjoy seeing Gianna the super-hostess who does everything so beautifully lose her cool. It’s jealousy. Say a little prayer for them before they arrive, and I bet you’ll be able to keep your cool.

Also…if they plant in front of the TV, I suggest telling them that dinner is served in the dining room at 6pm, and not taking them plates in front of the TV. They’ll get hungry and show up to be civilized adults at the table.


Set your tables, put out the good china and place cards. If your ILs make fun, just simle and give a lilting little laugh say “pops, you are always such a kidder!” and change the subject. Have DH right there to run interference with them…

Remove the television - put it in a back bedroom closet. Should anyone ask - smile and say “oh Uncle Steve, you are such a kidder - would you care for a canape?” Have nice music playing, and maybe some board game tables set up in the family room for games with dessert?

I usually take care of the TV thing by putting a few of my favorite Christmas cd’s in the stereo for ambiance. Tell them after dinner you have a real treat; everyone is going to watch your favorite Christmas or holiday VHS or DVD. I agree with the other posters, counter their remarks and jibes with overabundant exuberance for the holiday season. Don’t let their remarks affect you in the least. You may want to ask for help in the kitchen from your MIL…something small like cutting up veggies or something. That keeps her from parking in front of the TV.

Say a prayer of thanksgiving that your family is at least still talking. My family (both sides) are so broken, we can’t do holidays together. My mom treats one of my sisters like you describe, but worse…she ignores her kids while lavishing attention on the other grandkids. My MIL thinks my DH made a huge mistake marrying me because I actually GULP make his daughter mind her manners! Needless to say, this year it will just be DH, Kids (including the one that doesn’t live at home) and me.

pull the TV plug out of the wall. cut the plug off with wire snips. after the holiday (or after the superbowl if you are smart), a new plug can be put on. that is cheaper than throwing a brick through the TV.

I gave up long ago on holiday parties which in this family are always football parties. I refuse to spend longer preparing a meal than it takes them to eat it.

I solved the critical, negative relatives dilemma by moving 500 miles away, it might work for you.

I really think, all ranting aside, cecelia has the best advice. Return a positive cheerful reply to every negative comment. You could end with “Since [hyper-critical] SIL has such wonderful ideas on how to celebrate we really should come to her house for Christmas”.

I love my secretary’s response to (uninvited) relatives at a recent gathering who kept asking for things she did not have available: butter instead of margarine, bottled water instead of tap, exotic sauces and condiments, fat free this, sugar free that–she finally said, “I am sorry, we don’t have what you want, but there is a convenience store on the corner so just run down there and get what you need.”

Move. :stuck_out_tongue:

Okay, maybe that won’t work. But it did for me. We didn’t move to get away from family members. We moved for a job. But it had the same effect. They haven’t made one comment about my Christmas stuff since we moved. :thumbsup: Well, they also haven’t come for a visit since we moved. :frowning:

My in-laws were always laughing at my Christmas music, all the Santa stuff we did and that we had the same meal every year. I would just smile through it knowing that I had great memories from my childhood and my husband was just making his memories.

Try to keep a smile. Turn the negative into a positive. And remember that your way is what memories are made of.

I really like the TV cord idea!

When my brother was first married, my mom and his wife had a lot of friction about “does she like me?” and “why did she say that?”. SIL would give Mom a gift wrapped in the most beautiful, huge bow you had ever seen in your life. Mom would later wonder what it meant! “Does she feel like she has to impress me?”, etc. Then SIL would wrap her presents more simply and Mom would wonder what happened to the fancy bow? “Is she mad at me for something?”.


Family can be tough, especially inlaws!

Ignore them as best you can. Are there any family members coming that you would actually like to see? Spend your time with them, and ignore the grumpies. Also, I second the advice of the TV ‘breaking’ for the day. Just unplug it and say “it doesn’t work right now”–not a lie! And don’t cater to their nonsense. Have everyone eat at the table, if they don’t show up, don’t worry about it. They can sit there staring at the ‘broken’ tv and be hungry. No big deal. In fact, I would go overboard decorating this year, just for the fun of it!


Deep down, you are secretly wishing, “This will be the year that they get civilized and behave like decent guests. My efforts will actually be appreciated & we’ll all sit around & tell stories and laugh…ahhh…won’t it be grand” :smiley: :wink:

It’s not going to happen, no matter how hard you try or wish.

Why not do what you need to do for the ungrateful family, and then invite a bunch of your friends over for a “turkey leftover” dinner on Friday, and pull out all the stops for that one?

EXACTLY!! I don’t have the critical complainers–just the self-absorbed, self-centered “whatever I’m doing is far more important, impressive and demanding than anything you’re doing” relatives. Yikes–don’t know which is worse. We have opted to sit out the one-upsmanship and enjoy our immediate family, take a pass on the second helpings of disappointment and unmet expectations and surround ourselves with real friends whose company we enjoy and who value, enjoy and reciprocate our friendship.

LOL cecilia!! I will try to be a southern belle on Thursday. I really do try to ignore negativity. Yet, as I’m ignoring it, I seethe underneath it all. Then, when they leave, I’m practically beside myself. I’ll think of this post on Thursday when I’m “ignoring” them and being positive…it will definitely lighten my spirits!

You are right, Stephanie. I really do secretly wish for something different. I keep saying to myself that when I have DIL and SIL and grandchildren, that I will make things better. I hope I don’t turn into some grumpy old negative lady that everyone has to try and ignore!!!:nope:
That friend idea thing might just work…hmmm…

To all you kind posters who recommended unplugging or turning off the TV--------------:bigyikes: . OH MY!!! I would be starting some kind of WWIII for sure. You should see the attitude when I “make” everyone say grace before they start shoveling in their food!!! As much as I would LOVE to say NO TV, it just wouldn’t work. It is a little difficult to seat all those people in my little house, so everyone is sort of spread out all over. So, my plan is to have a no TV area, where conversation can take place over a nice cup of coffee and pie. That’s as brave as I can be…

When I know my hypercritical relatives will be coming and putting me down for all my uppity pretensions (same as yours: good china, crystal, silver, centerpieces) I remind myself that I am really doing all this for my family and my own satisfaction: the knowledge that I can actually still DO this stuff, that I can actually shuck those oysters, stuff those pheasant, make that perfect Cumberland sauce. My kids will remember it – and nuts to the Humbugs.

Remember what my Mother used to tell me when I was a kid: when people try to put you down, just refuse to hear them. Critical comments about your table? Respond, “Why, Mother, Darlin’ – I think that’s just about the most fun part of Christmas! I hope you’ll relax and just enjoy it with us!”

I can’t even imagine watching TV as a guest at someone else’s house, especially for Thanksgiving or for Christmas. What could be more fascinating than my hostess and her other guests? Seriously, these people are just astoundingly rude to you. :mad:

Do they do this to other people, too?

I’d throw the bums out on the lawn toot sweet, if anyone did that to me, and I’d enjoy my decorations and my table o’ plenty in peace and quiet. :cool:

Though if you do turn into that person, you can just go off and watch TV by yourself while everybody else does their own thing.

But what if the Bears are playing?

Just be glad you have family to spend holidays with instead of having to figure what Chinese restaurants are open for take-out or scrounging through the freezer for TV dinners to make for yourself.

That being said, remind the ungrateful inlaws that THEY have family to spend holidays with instead of having to put TV dinners in the oven.

A very amusing post here. I also like the idea of cutting the cord on the TV, very humorous.

St Paul said to ‘heap coals of kindness on their heads’. He was giving us a good tactic to use. Don’t show your irritation. I like to keep an open bottle of wine in the kitchen for my own personal use while entertaining annoying guests. :wink: It calms the nerves and makes me a tolerant hostess, allowing me to take St Paul’s advise.

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