Holidays and other gatherings can be a lot of fun — but they can also be chaotic and overstimulating for kids! Rather than punish your children for misbehavior, be thoughtful ahead of time about how to prepare them for success.
Whether your child loudly proclaims Gramma’s sweet potatoes are YUCKY!, gets out of control when opening presents, or shuts down and withdraws when talking with adults, make a thoughtful plan and weave in plenty of encouragement.
[To ease holiday mealtime stress, read 7 Practical Tips for Picky Eaters.]
With the three simple steps below, you can set your child up for success and create a truly enjoyable holiday gathering!
It’s tempting when kids experience rejection, to want to protect them and be a buffer to keep their feelings from being hurt. Our blood boils, our God-given Mama or Papa Bear instincts kick in, and we may well go after the offending teacher or student. Sometimes this is a wise course of action, especially if a child is experiencing abuse or extreme rejection. But many times the best strategy is to be thoughtful about strengthening the child instead of protecting them. This prepares them for other inevitable situations in life when rejection threatens to redefine their sense of identity.
Cara’s kids had different classes with the same teacher. Mr. Benson may have been a well-intentioned guy, but the methods he used in his class were laden with shaming, critical messages.
In Jaden’s class, Mr. Benson decided to prepare the kids for the teasing they were sure to get next year in middle school. He projected each student’s picture from school photo day, one at a time, for the class to laugh at. Jaden’s anxious, deer-in-the-headlights mugshot brought a chorus of laughter and comments from his classmates. He ran off the bus sobbing that day, traumatized by the humiliation.
“My child is determined to push my buttons.”
“She just acts out to get attention.”
“I get so tired of his misbehavior, I just don’t enjoy my son any more.”
Misbehaving kids are often discouraged and looking for a strong emotional response from their parents. They want to know they matter to their parents! But in the blur of family life, they often get that energized response when… they misbehave. “Carson James Smith! Stop that right now!” delivered with intense eye contact and furrowed brow.
Ah, zing. Reward. Connection made. Cycle reinforced.
Carson just got lots of attention for misbehavior, strengthened his identity as a pain-in-the-neck, and is even more likely to repeat the behavior. Soon. Parents often resent this repeated misbehavior and connect even less with their child.
Changing this pattern starts with realizing: My kids have a God-given need for my intense attention! It’s an important part of bonding. This is especially true of more challenging kids. They are looking for an “intensity match” to their big emotions.
How do we begin to be set free from life-long patterns of rigidity and control that affect lots of areas in our parenting lives? I remember when the kids would make endless messes or bicker repeatedly – it would drive me nuts! I just wanted it to stop. So I would engage with angst and negativity, and wonder why it wasn’t helping. Jim would ask me the question, “What are you going to do to be okay if they don’t change?” I hated the question. It made me even madder. But it was a good question. As I learned to look first at myself and my let go of my need for control, I could let God’s peace begin to infuse our challenges. I was able to engage with much more wisdom, insight, and even creativity, and became more effective in my parenting. I had to change my perspective about what was happening to me spiritually as a parent. It changed the way I disciplined. I began working toward long-term life change in my kids by starting with change in my own heart.
David Mathis, executive editor at DesiringGod.org, an online Christian website, and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis, shared how he made a small change in the way he viewed his role as a parent after taking the online Discipline That Connects course, and he shares below about how a shift in his thinking led to some big changes in the way he thought of himself as a parent…as well as how he thought of his children.
Big picture thinking is important when it comes to parenting. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment with your child’s misbehavior, responding in knee-jerk fashion to attempt to get a certain behavior to STOP. Sometimes, our swift discipline does make the misbehavior stop. But, does it teach grace and result in a child’s changed heart or in a deeper understanding about the way actions affect others and his/her relationship with God?
As parents who hope our children will walk in love and truth, we would do well to consider: How do I want my child to view God when she messes up?
What happens at bedtime can set the tone for an entire evening and even impact the following morning. I often coach families that face struggles as their kids are getting to bed. Emotions can be high and even the anticipation of bedtime can create stress in a family. Does this sound familiar? Just as eight o’clock (or whatever time you have set) approaches, do you sense the tension rising? I coached one family through their bedtime routine and found a way together to improve the atmosphere around bedtime and end the day on a positive note.
Does this sound familiar? Picture yourself standing, hands on hips at the front door saying (maybe loudly, even): “C’mon, kids. It’s time to go. Kids…. Kids…. It’s time to go!!! You need to listen to me! Get moving – NOW!” Does this pattern repeat itself every time your kids need to make a transition?
It can be tough for some kids to simply come to a meal or come in from playing outside, let alone get organized to get into the car. The busier your schedule, the more times you have to get your kids away from what they are doing and on to the next thing. Since these transitions become the “bookends” of each activity in your day, they tend to create repeated patterns of either teamwork or power struggles.
When a child becomes so focused on a favorite activity that they just can’t seem to pull away, it may become an exercise in frustration for parents. Suddenly, Mom or Dad may find themselves heading directly toward power struggles and conflict as they attempt to move their child onto the next activity.
A mom who had taken the Discipline That Connects online course recently shared some strategies for creating peace in the midst of what had become a repeatedly challenging situation. Her daughter, Karina, 5 years old, loves to read and sometimes getting her to transition to bedtime became a power struggle. Read to learn how Laura was able to calmly and wisely help her daughter transition to bedtime without conflict, while teaching her some important lessons in the process.
Your child might be one of the kids who struggle to wake up on the “happy side of the bed.” One day your little darlin’ is sweet as can be, but the next day you sense it will be Meltdown Morning. Other days your child might be sluggish and difficult to rouse. Some kids often start the day in meltdown mode until they get a decent breakfast. But the challenge of getting them to the table to eat can be overwhelming. When our days start off rocky, sometimes it is difficult to regain our sense of balance, but it is possible.
Getting an education is a tremendous privilege. Most parents recognize that future opportunities are built on many layers of learning that happen during the school years. That’s why when kids make poor choices at school, either behavioral or academic, parents usually get pretty upset. If we are honest, it’s mostly because we think our kids’ bad judgment or irresponsibility reflects poorly on US! But really, their behavior is THEIR “report card” and not ours. As school approaches, take some time to prepare your children to be responsible for themselves this school year.