Let’s face it, sometimes we put a whole heck of a lot of pressure on ourselves (and on our children) around the holidays because we want good behavior and everything to go a certain way. So, are you inadvertently headed for holiday stress and tears because of unrealistic expectations or self-inflicted holiday stress?
Here are 7 ways you may be sabotaging holiday happiness
Reinforcing conditional love with prizes and promises of the best gifts
It’s that time of year when it’s so easy to promise wonderful gifts under the tree for a bit of compliance…for example “If you do this for mommy right now, I’ll buy that super fun mega wheels track you said you wanted. Mommy loves you when you are being a good little boy” The problem is, these bribes and conditions really cause a rift in the parent-child relationship.
Instead, try to remember that gifts and toys this time of year or any time really can be a fun way to connect, so instead of making them a condition, make a wish list together and surprise your little one with gifts this holiday season, for the sake of being generous and promoting fun family time – not in exchange for specific behaviors.
Insisting children hug and kiss random relatives they hardly know
While I totally believe children should use good manners, forcing children to kiss others when they feel uncomfortable totally violates the child’s personal space and their sense of personal boundaries and safety. Adults shouldn’t force children to give affection or do anything with their bodies they are not ready or comfortable doing. Insisting on those kisses and hugs can lead to tantrums, clingyness and leaves a child feeling upset.
Many children take a while to warm up to new people – this is a good thing, not a sign of rudeness!
Worried that relatives will be expecting a warm greeting? Use play with your child to practice polite greetings like a wave and a hello. Talk ahead of time about which relatives they will be meeting, show pictures, use skype to “meet” distant relatives but try to respect your child’s pace and allow them to greet relatives as they feel comfortable.
Evaluating kids as “naughty or nice”
I cannot count how many times I have overheard phrases like “Stop that or Santa’s going to know how bad you are!” and “Wow Santa’s not coming if you keep being so naughty!” in the past few weeks. I get it, parenting is stressful, getting kids to listen and be cooperative when out and about can be tough but the constant evaluation of “good boy” and “bad girl” and naughty and nice is stressful to a child, doesn’t really motivate them to change a behavior plus many children actually start believing they are “bad” and that can lead to low self esteem.
Try to look for specific situations when you can use encouraging words instead of empty praise. This is great because it works all year round! “Thank you for helping me set the table, I appreciate it when you pitch in with family chores” or “it must have been hard to walk by all those toys and not even stop to look at them, thanks for understanding we were in a hurry today and for staying close to me at the store!”
Buying every gift on the wish list even if it breaks the bank
The holidays don’t need to be about giving our children every item from their wish list. No matter how awesome it is to see our children open the presents they wished for, setting a limit and only buying what’s in your budget is really alright, healthy and in the long term more beneficial to our children. Plus, the holidays are not just about buying presents…being present matters so much more!
If your child has a really expensive wish, see if other family members want to pitch in so you can gift it together. Another great way to maximize the toy budget is to purchase family gifts instead that can be shared by siblings. A wonderful suggestion from Nora, a Positive Parenting Connection reader was to stick with “Something to play with, something to wear, something to read, something to share.”
OH so Cute [Itchy, scratchy,not what I wanted] Outfits
At a recent Christmas party, a toddler was running around desperately trying to undress herself – I confess it would have been really funny if it was just a toddler thing and not for the fact that she was so very miserable because her tights were itchy. Holiday dinners with relatives or parties can be a really fun time to dress up but children are often already overloaded with the festivities. These sensory experiences like itchy tags, tight shoes and so on also can make children cranky really fast. Preschoolers and School children may also not really be interested in wearing an outfit just because WE think it’s so adorable.
One alternative is to get your child involved in choosing a festive outfit and letting her make sure that it’s comfortable. If it’s hard to give up control of the outfits try to ask yourself: Years from now, would you rather your child remember a fun Christmas or the day they HAD to wear the itchy reindeer sweater? Other ideas are to bring a different outfit along just in case, or to make a deal, switch outfits after getting a picture taken.
Holiday Decor: Yelling “No Touching” 100 Times a Day
So you’ve decked the halls….and now little fingers just cannot keep away from those beautiful…breakable…expensive ornaments and now you find yourself begging, pleading, redirecting, asking and well yelling…”Stop touching”
If you find yourself having to interfere and save the decorations all day, it may be time to change something.One idea, use non breakable ornaments or decorations – that takes a lot of the stress away while the children in the house are still very curious and active toddlers/preschoolers. Another idea is to have a small basket of ornaments that are child friendly and intended for play near the tree.
Sweets Overload & Food Power Struggles
Food is a huge part of holiday festivities, from cookies to pies to big celebration meals, if you keep a plate of cookies on display but don’t want your toddler to touch it, or if you are headed to a party and worried about table manners instead of stressing and nagging try to find ways to be pro-active.
For example, stash away the cookies, make a deal with your child or set a limit on how many sweets are alright each day and then stick to it. Going to many parties and dinners? Practice table manners at home, but don’t expect an overnight change!
The Holidays Can Be All About sharing Joy and Happiness, a chance to giggle, play and have fun. This is a time to build memories and to be together. It’s a wonderful time to model gratitude, believe in the magic of kindness acceptance, trust and love.
I wish for you and your family a chance to slow down and enjoy the simple things, that you may enjoy traditions, new and old and the giving and receiving of gifts with a generous and kind spirit in mind.
I’d love to hear from you, what part of the holidays do you love the most? What part stresses you out?
Peace & Be well,
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