How was Thanksgiving? Did your children handle the day with grace and gratitude? Or did you uncover new behavior problems amidst the holiday hubbub? It’s not unusual, particularly when we spend the holiday with many friends and family members, for our kids to act uncharacteristically.
There are several issues that contribute to this problem. As much as we may attempt to keep life consistent, big holidays often disrupt the routine, causing sleep and meal disruptions. The kids may get more sugar than usual. They may go to bed later than usual. They may sleep less soundly if they’re not in their own beds. (My kids sleep on the floor at Grandma’s house.) They might get too much attention from family members. Our usual parenting tactics may get disrupted, either on our own accord (being lax), or comments from others may undermine our efforts.
No matter the specific cause, we are left to deal with children who are not themselves. Whether they are showing behavior problems or attitude issues, our kids are behaving uncharacteristically. This can confuse the most well-meaning parent. What do we do with this child we don’t recognize? And how do we deal with behavior problems we’ve never encountered before?
The most important idea to remember is that you will have to put effort into retraining your child. Whether the child has picked up bad behavior habits from others or has created some of his own, commit to retraining those bad behaviors right out of him. If your lives were only disrupted for a day or two, you might only require that much retraining time. If you were out of town for a week or longer, the behavior problems will be more deeply ingrained, and you’ll likely need more time for retraining.
Now, you may also be thinking ahead to Christmas. If your family is like mine, the time spent with friends and family over Christmas is similar to Thanksgiving, only on a larger scale. Again, you may need to retrain your child. But if you’d like to prevent behavior problems from occurring during Christmas festivities, rather than retrain after the fact, you’ll need to address your child’s specific needs. For example, if your child is an introvert and there are 20 people in your house, you may give the child an extra room time session to help him gather the energy to face all the people.
A few considerations to prevent holiday behavior problems include:
- Keep meals as consistent as possible, even if that means feeding the child before or after the main family meal. Set alerts on your phone for meals, snacks and nap times.
- Keep bed and nap times as consistent as possible. It can be difficult to get children to bed at their normal bedtimes when so many others stay up hours later, but sleep is the top consideration when facing behavior and attitude problems.
- Limit sugar. Allow the child a Christmas cookie or two, but not much more.
- Limit food dyes.
- Do your best not to relax too much during the holidays. Take turns with your spouse and do all you can to stay consistent and follow through on your word.
- Limit the child’s freedoms. If he’s not allowed to wander the house at home, he shouldn’t be allowed to do so at Grandma’s.
- Consider the child’s personality. If he’s an introvert, give him some quiet, alone time.
- Consider the child’s love language. If he thrives on words of encouragement from you and you spend all day talking to adult relatives, he may act up.
If, despite your best efforts, your child shows behavior problems, act on them before they escalate. Deal with whining before it escalates into a tantrum. Deal with grumpiness before it turns into a fight with a family member. Keep your eye on your child, and quietly and politely excuse yourselves if you need to discipline him. Then commit to retraining him when you get home.
Happy holidays! :)