Christmas, the most wonderfully stressful time of the year! From visits to Santa’s grotto, gift buying, the school carol concert to peeling sprouts, your To-Do list is even longer than usual and can prove to be very overwhelming! Because of this, many families struggle to find a balance between the festive spirit and wishing it was all over and done with!
Popping my inner grinch to one side, there’s no denying that when all is said and done, Christmas can be truly lovely! However, there is just a lot of disruption that goes hand in hand with Christmas, which in turn can result in children displaying behaviours which only add further pressure.
With excitement seemingly building by the second, children appear to have more energy than ever before! Whereas in contradiction to this, parents feel zapped and exhausted. This can understandably lead to frayed nerves, patience wearing thin and disharmony that sends ripple effects throughout the entire household!
Due to underdeveloped brains and limited life experience, young children have very little to no impulse control, making it harder for them to curb their desires for things which look good, taste good and seem like fun! This is one of the reasons why parenting is a tough job all year round. It’s just heightened by all the extra temptations on offer at Christmas time. Mix in late nights, hustle and bustle, overindulgence and maybe even a little elf that comes alive at nighttime, it’s easy to see how behaviours can go off track!
With that being said, do families have to simply ride out the festive storm, or are there things which can be done to help lessen the disruption that Santa leaves in his wake!?
Having spent many a festive period supporting different families in various settings, I have both witnessed and suffered the consequences of the chaos first hand! Not one to accept defeat, I began to approach these times in a manner which I’ve found to be both effective and preventative in terms of limiting those inevitable outbursts, tears and tantrums!
All joking aside, Christmas is a wonderful time and the perfect opportunity to build bonds, create memories and form everlasting family traditions which will go on to affect how your children plan their own family Christmases in the future!
5 of Laura’s TOP tips for managing your child’s behaviour this Christmas!
These are what I feel to be really important tips in terms of helping to keep things ticking over and on track for the new year ahead. Some families choose to simply relax all boundaries and plan for baby bootcamp as of January 1st, ultimately it’s what works best for you and your family!
1) Routine……the Red Nosed Reindeer
I know, I know! Nothing like stating the obvious BUT, I can’t not mention the upside of trying to keep at least a general routine in place! Of course there will be days which are just too busy, however, if you can try to anchor as many meal times, nap times and bedtimes as possible, you’ll maintain a daily structure which will guide your little one’s body clock as well as set natural boundaries around food, activities and sleep.
A lack of sleep creates irritability, short attention spans and therefore has a big impact on behaviours. So, if you only have the headspace to focus on one aspect of the routine, I recommend that you prioritise bedtime!
A sleep deprived child will find it more difficult to play on their own or alongside siblings, ultimately this makes the daytime hours even more difficult for busy parents!
2) All I Want for Christmas is Silence……
There’s one very common theme that I’ve noticed running throughout households, which is when children are playing quietly, or getting on with things, parents are so relieved by the quiet that they can become almost mute. Perhaps sinking into a chair with a cuppa or cracking on with chores whilst the opportunity presents itself! Whilst this is SO understandable, it can send signals which a child subconsciously picks up on. As soon as siblings start to squabble or behaviours go awry, parents then become involved, meaning that children often get more attention for negative behaviours than positive ones.
With this in mind, try to notice good in everyday, even if you are currently struggling with you child’s behaviour, I promise that they will do something that’s worthy of positive attention! Even just a “Wow, I love the Lego you are building!” will offer your child the chance to connect to the moment and feel good about themselves. There’s a common link between self-esteem and positive behaviours!
3) Here Comes Santa Claus!
How many times have you threatened your child with the fact that Santa is watching and at this rate will not be bringing a single gift with him on Christmas Eve?! It’s so tempting to use this kind of behaviour management isn’t it?! However, it doesn’t take a child too long to figure out whether or not you mean it!
Personally, I don’t think that there is a parent in the land who would allow their child to wake on Christmas Day without a gift to open, so this threat is as empty as they come! Say what you mean and mean what you say!
If you are in a bind and need to be able to have an impact on your child’s behaviour pretty sharpish, consider the 1, 2, 3 Method. Using a none threatening, yet confident tone say something along the lines of:
“When I get to three, either you hop down from the sofa, or I will get you down.”
Give your a child a moment to process what you have said, then start to count slowly as you move towards them to show them that you will follow through. Nine times out of ten, a youngster would much rather have the control in that situation and hop down on their own accord, rather than have you do it for them. (This method can be tweaked to suit most circumstances).
4) Winter Wonderland
This is a tricky one for many parents, but I’m going to start of with a very bold statement……You can not and should not try to make your child happy all the time!
Let me explain, if we consider the points I made above about brain development and lack of impulse control, a youngster does not have the capability to make sensible decisions all of the time. For that to happen, they need your guidance, boundaries and understanding of things which impact our health and safety.
As a parent, you are responsible for feeding, clothing, protecting and respecting your child. For offering them opportunities, education, love and warmth. Not a single one of these elements are found in the form of never-ending snacks, gifts, designer goods, digital devices or by saying yes to their every whim!
If for example, your little one is crying for the iPad (which they’ve already had for 2 hours), you may struggle to see them upset and give them the iPad back in order to stop the tears. This is a natural reaction for parents because of course you don’t want to see your child cry! If this happens on a regular basis, however, opportunities for a child to develop resilience, patience and understanding of the situation are removed. Also, if crying results in a positive outcome, it can very easily become a go to method of communication. (See the section below for tips on how to approach tears when you need to maintain a boundary).
In a similar vain, the amount of, or quality of gifts that your child receives is not what will create the magic of Christmas for them! They will remember the feelings, the smell of Christmas dinner, the anticipation and time spent with family for years to come! They will not remember the gifts that were under the tree. So, go easy on yourself when it comes to Christmas shopping!
5) Peace on Earth
Following on from not always being able to make your child happy, I would like to say that it is possible to maintain a boundary whilst offering them comfort. Supporting a child through a strong emotion offers them the perfect circumstance to develop skills which are genuinely vital to inner happiness! The Listen, Validate and Distract method is great way to do this!
Listen: When your child is showing displeasure towards something, try dropping to their level, making eye contact with them and listening to what they have to say….even if it seems ridiculous!
Validate: Then help them to process their feelings with a sentence which labels and acknowledges what’s happening, for example, “I can see that you are really sad about your Lego breaking.”
Distract: The distraction will be largely dependent on your location, child’s age and their character. Where possible, it’s great to offer a suggestion which encourages them to problem solve, for example, “How can we fix the Lego?”.
If you are outside of the house, you will have to think outside of the box. For example, “I can see that you really want that toy. Here, take a photo of it so we can remember to come back another time for it!”
Final Festive Word
I really hope that you all go on to have a wonderful Christmas and can take away at least one or two things from this which will help! If it seems a bit overwhelming this side of Christmas, January (the month of great change), will be here before you know it! So keep your eyes peeled on here and my social media for hints and tips to help you through 2022!
(AKA Nanny Amies)