When the Christmas season comes around we can count on a few things: 1) lots of fun family time, and 2) lots of fun family time disrupted by kids' bad behavior. Kids often misbehave A LOT during the holidays. Their schedules are messed up; they're over-excited and over-stimulated. (Don't even get me started on all the extra SUGAR.) If you'd like to stop holiday misbehaving before it starts, here are 12 ways to do that:
1. Let your children know your expectations and what they can expect. Our kids are introduced to a lot of new people and activities, and they often don't know how to act. Before you step through the door of Grandma's house, give them a rundown of what's to come. Also offer any special instructions: “I know it's hard not to run and play loudly at Grandma's house, she's just not used to it. When we get home you'll be able to have fun with your noisy toys.”
2. Fill them in on the schedule and details. Do you have numerous holiday events during the week? Tell your kids where you're going and what you'll be doing. If possible help them create their own calendar and mark off the days. Make notes on dates they'll need extra preparation, such as picking out a nice outfit. Remind them of the schedule as the week progresses.
3. Pack a fun activity bag. Boredom is one leading cause of misbehavior. If you're shopping or visiting family, allow your child to pack special things to play with or do.
4. Calm yourself first. If you're stressed, overstimulated, or overwhelmed, your kids will be too. Prepare your own heart and emotions for everything that's happening. When you feel yourself tensing up or getting frustrated, take care of those emotions; take a few deep breaths and remind yourself what's truly important . . . otherwise you'll be passing on those negative emotions.
5. Stick to the routine as much as possible. Make time for dinner as a family around the table even if you're only having sandwiches. Get your children to bed on time as many nights as possible. Kids thrive on what's familiar.
6. Create white space for your children to have a break. We sometimes think we have to fill the holidays with lots of extra special events, but sometimes kids just want to chill out with a fun movie or play with their toys, and that's OK.
7. Allow your kids to pick out their favorite activities. Ask, “What would your ideal holiday look like if you planned it?” Our family usually picks 2–3 favorite activities, such as baking cookies, looking at Christmas lights, and reading a few favorite Christmas stories. Don't feel as if you have to do everything.
8. Understand kids can be stressed too. Give your kids permission to let you know when they need some quiet time. Are there too many people at Aunt Jennifer's house? Make a plan ahead of time for a place your child can go for quiet—like cuddling on auntie's bed—even for a few minutes.
9. Don't give in to misbehavior. If you give in once, you can count on your children trying it again. Don't worry if everyone is watching you at the family gathering; don't let your child act out and then get his away. Think through possible areas of discord. Practice dealing with conflict at home before you're in the middle of family events.
10. Offer a reward. All of us work for rewards. We do our work for a paycheck. We finish up our work quickly to have time to read for enjoyment. We choose the salad for dinner so we can have dessert. Offer a reward for good behavior, such as, “If you stick with me at the mall in the two shops I have to go to, I'll let you pick a card game for us to play together when we get home.” Practice working on behaviors and getting small rewards at home so they know what to expect.
11. Be a problem-solver. Kids act out when they don't know how to solve their problems. Ofter solutions for whatever issues they're facing. Pray for them during times of conflict and stress.
12. Pray with your child. Remind him he can always turn to God when he feels like he wants to act out. Pray with him and model what it look likes to turn to God in prayer. Pray that God will help him be loving, patient, kind, and thoughtful even in the midst of the holiday busyness. And ask him to pray the same for you.