Monday, December 5, 2011

Hyped Up Holidays

"You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you why, Santa Clause is coming to town..."
Oh the pressure we put on our kids! Did you ever get coal in your stockings when you were growing up? Maybe not, but I bet it was threatened. It certainly was when I was growing up, but I tried not to say it to my kids because I knew I would never put coal in their stockings. In the first place, where would I get it? 

Some of these parenting tricks are handed down generation after generation. "Mommy, can I have this toy?", and the reply, "Maybe for
Christmas, if you're good". I often found myself wrestling with this kind of dialogue through out the year, trying to remember not to say it. You see I realized at one point that if I said this every time one of my kids asked me for something new I would end up having a very long list of things to buy them for Christmas. After all, my kids were good, most of the time at least.

The truth is most parents really don't want to punish their kids, but they do want them to behave well (If possible all the time). Unfortunately we often undermine what we are trying to do by using threats. Threats don't work unless you have proven that you will follow through, but most of the time threats are drastic measures that we don't really want to (or can't) follow through on. So I decided to take threats out of my tool box and find something more effective.

A Consequence

What is the difference between a threat and a consequence? A consequence is usually prearranged and follows well known expectations. What that means is you clearly communicate how you expect your children to behave in any given situation, and you tell them what the consequence will be if they don't. For example, " I have to buy presents for your cousins, you can help me pick them out if you promise not to run around the store, and don't ask me to buy you things. If you misbehave you wont be able to...". You get the point.

If you think you've already explained at other times and your kids should know better, then just state that, or ask them a question like, " Is that how you should be acting right now?" or "Do you want a very long time out when we get home?" The important thing is to prepare your kids for both your expectations and the possible consequences for misbehavior, and make those consequences something you really can and will enforce.

The holidays can be a real test of strength for both parents and kids. Everyone has great expectations for happiness and good times. We get ourselves into high gear with all the planning and extra activities, and our kids get wound up like a top with all the excitement. Things can easily spin out of control. Your best bet is to try to keep life evenly paced and keep your expectations clear. Knowing how you need to behave as a parent in any given situation is also helpful preparation.  Clayton Thomas has a good post on that called the 3 D's of Discipline, check it out sometime.

I hope it's all fun, food and games at your house and everything is running smoothly. How are your Holiday preparations coming along this year? 

1 comment:

  1. I'm having a hard time figuring out how to discipline. I have one tough cookie. She turned 2 today but has been having the terrible 2 phase since she was 18 months. To day I counted 3 full out tantrums (in a public place) before noon. So embarrassing. When we are home it's easy to handle, but in public I don't know what to do.

    Veronica @


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