Life Advice



The Impact of Good-Mannered Children

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: You recently said you rarely get letters praising mothers-in-law. Well, here is one!

I grew up in an abusive family with a mother who has severe borderline personality disorder and refuses to get medication or therapy. When I met my mother-in-law, I was naturally very distrustful of her. Mothers were not safe to me, and mothers-in-law were supposed to be even worse!

I am happy to say that 15 years later, I love the woman dearly. She has helped me heal that little girl who needed a mom to love her unconditionally. Sadly, I was not the best daughter-in-law when she first met me; I was stubborn, distrustful and divisive. Yet, through it all, she did not hold a grudge, and she continued to love me.

I would love to see the narrative on mothers-in-law change! -- Change the Narrative

Dear Change: I love your letter. Thank you for bringing up such a great point. Many mothers-in-law are wonderful and deserve to be praised. Without a mother-in-law, the son would not have been born.

Dear Annie: "Eighty-One Years Wise," who wrote in about feeling uncomfortable around poorly behaved children, was spot on, but I've also been known to pause by a table in a restaurant where a family of total strangers are enjoying a meal to compliment the children and parents on well-mannered children.

I tell the children how important it is to have nice manners, and I tell the parents what a joy it is to see a lovely family and that clearly they are good, caring parent(s).


Raising children is tough, now more than ever, so words of encouragement are so welcome. Plus it gives them reinforcement, proving to their children that people notice.

My husband died on active military service, so I was a single parent. I raised my boys to always treat people well, even annoying kids in school, as I told them, you might want a job from their dad or to marry their sister. You never know how a minute being an idiot can affect you in future.

I also told them, and their friends, never to do anything they wouldn't want to see splashed on the front of a tabloid if they're ever famous. Because someone will sell their story. In a day when kids are aware of fame, they understand the implications. -- Raising Well-Mannered Children

Dear Well-Mannered: Thank you and your husband for his military service. I am very sorry for your loss. You have wonderful values and seem to have instilled them in your children.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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