Dad, Bond with Your Son-in-Law

by J. Grant Swank, Jr.

A son-in-law can be a tremendous boon, if dad recognizes the gift. Do not take him for granted. Any relationship worth its salt takes work. So work at bonding with your son-in-law. Here are some practical pointers:

Cut Him Some Slack

We're all human, your son-in-law included. So when it comes to the new gent woven into your clan, look for the human element in him. You won't have to look far. But when you find it, weigh the minors and the majors. If there are minor flaws, then cut the fellow some slack. Somebody cut you slack back there a few years ago. Recall?

By cutting him some slack, you give the young man some time to do what you hopefully did-mature with the years. We all need time to find our better selves.

Hand Him an Appreciation Note

The other day, recalling how fortunate I am to have two terrific men as my sons-in-law, I wrote them each a note and enclosed a small money gift. The smiles on their faces were more than payment to me for the simple gesture of putting on paper what those gentlemen mean to our family-and particularly to me, their father-in-law.

These notes also did favors for my daughters. Anything positive that the dad-in-law does related to the son-in-law will serve well the daughter. So if you want to do something really nice for your favorite "little girl now grown into womanhood," do something really nice for her husband.

Three sentences will do when put on a blank card and handed to your son-in-law. But do it.

Listen Up

Open your ears when your son-in-law has something to say-and particularly when he doesn't have anything to say. Listen to him when he says something, no matter whether you consider it important or not. Listen to him when he just sits there staring out into space. Non-verbal communication is indeed communication.

When two people can converse endlessly, that is quite a bit of bonding. But when two people can sit quietly with nothing to say with the tongue, that is quite a bit of bonding, too.

In either case, learn how to keep your mouth shut long enough to listen up to what your son-in-law has to say-in one form or another.

Advocate for Him

Sometimes there are those in the clan who say cutting things about your son-in-law. This can happen especially when there is jealousy from other men. Or it can occur when women decide it is time to discover the flaws in the males of the family.

Unless it is importantly deserved, don't foster "bad mouthing" your son-in-law. When someone starts to complain about him, griping about this-or-that trait, speak up as his advocate.

You will always win when you know that he is just as human as the rest of the clan; when you know he's in the right; and when you know that what is said is just plain petty. Being his advocate can return big dividends.

Praise Him

I watched my son-in-law constructing his own home. I couldn't do the things that he does. I don't know how.

His father died years ago in a car accident. So he has no biological dad to pat him on the back. Now that job is mine. And am I ever glad.

The other day I watched him working on the roof. I waited till he climbed back down to tell him what a fantastic job he was doing-money saving-wise, pounding nails-wise, design-wise, and all the other elements of construction that are Greek to me.

The look on his face was well worth my stumbling compliments. We all need praise. We are nurtured by it. And your son-in-law is no different.

An aunt used to think that praising a relative would make him or her proud. So we never got an ounce of praise from her. But we learned that when she was talking to others outside the family, she bragged us up all the time. She simply had a notion that face-to-face praise could ruin a good life. Don't go that route. Learn how to praise sincerely and you will feed another's soul for growth.

Remember His Birthday

According to popular-but unproved-public opinion, men don't usually remember birthdays. Whether it is true or not, you be the one to remember your son-in-law's birthday with a phone call or card or gift or whatever. Just remember it.

Make Short Phone Calls

An impromptu phone call to your son-in-law at the close of a workday is a good thing. Try it. A brief "How're things? What's new? Just wondered how you two are doing" goes a long, long way to keep the bonding bound.

J. Grant Swank pastors New Hope Church in Windham, Maine.

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J. Grant Swank, Jr.,

POB l984,

Windham ME 04062

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