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Wednesday, June 17, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Yes, 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. Then work at bonding with your son-in-law.

Here are some practical pointers:


We’re all human. Your son-in-law is included in that grouping. So, though you want perfection for your daughter’s husband, you won’t find it. You’re not perfect, dad, in case you hadn’t noticed.

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 in order to do what you hopefully did—mature with the years. No one can be older than what he is; therefore, fast-pacers included, we all need time in which to find our better selves.


But, you say, “I don’t know how to write a note.”

Then make it short but make it, nevertheless. Three sentences will do when put on a blank card and handed to your son-in-law.

The other day I recalled how fortunate I am to have two terrific men known to me as my very own sons-in-law. Therefore, 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—the father-in-law.

In addition, the notes did favors for my daughters. Anything that the dad-in-law does that is positive 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.


Open your ears when your son-in-law has something to say, and particularly when he doesn’t have anything to say.

Men don’t talk that much, so they say. But a lot of men defy that postulate. Nevertheless, it doesn’t finally matter. Whether that son-in-law is verbose or clammed-up, listen up.

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 run on at the mouth endlessly, that is quite a bit of bonding. In addition, when two people can sit quietly with nothing to say with the tongue, that is quite a bit of bonding, too.

So, 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.


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 on the side of defending the son-in-law 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 will return to you in goodness.


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 is deceased—died years ago in a car accident. So he has no biological dad to pat him on the back. The job? It’s mine. And am I ever pleased to know that it is mine.

So the other day as I watched him climbing to the top of the roof for one pounding-nails job or another, 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 facets 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.

I had an aunt who used to think that to praise a relative was to make that one 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 speaking praise face-to-face could ruin a good life.

She was so wrong. Don’t go the route of my aunt; go the route of learning how to praise sincerely and you will feed another’s soul for growth.


Men don’t remember birthdays, usually. Now there is a postulate that’s just not accurate. No one has made a firm study of that. Yet it is a well-publicized hypothesis.

Nevertheless, 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.


An impromptu phone call to your son-in-law at the close of a workday is a good thing. Try it.

He may not like the phone. Many men don’t, so they say. And if your son-in-law is one of those, then fall right in step with short talks. But a short talk—“How’s things? What’s new? Just wondered how you two are doing’” goes a long, long way to keep the bonding bound.