Year-Round Parenting for Stress-Free Holidays

By Emily Faith, co-author of Wild Hyacinthe

But I Want It!The holidays are creeping up quickly. I can see it in parents’ eyes: the horror, fear, and uneasiness of being left with your kids for two weeks while teachers get a break. It’s already started in the stores: kids taking advantage of their parents, the screaming, the “But I want it!” I know many parents will be running on crazy from now until mid-January. Some parents ignore the holiday whininess, thinking there’s nothing they can do about the greedy attitudes through the season. But if kids are taught (consistently!) at a very young age to be respectful, and parents continue to actively parent at family gatherings, kids can glide through the holiday season with ease.

I used to listen to “I want,” but then realized that that is not how I would ask for something. I had my kids reword until I heard “May I please” or “Please can I have.” Eventually—even though there are four of them—they figured it out. My motto: “’I want’ gets you nothing.” That goes for life as well. Hard work and proper treatment of others gets you what you want, kids and adults alike.

With more kids than adults in the house, chaos sometimes breaks out no matter what I do. But it’s a learning process for me as well as them, so I learned to make them slow down, calm down, and talk to me, not scream in my face their version of what happened. Once calm, they can tell both sides of the argument, and then decide the course of action. But waiting until all parties are calm makes for a better end result. I am calm and so are the kids before we move forward with problem solving or, when necessary, a consequence for their actions.

I am totally okay with continuing to actively parent in front of family and friends, but I think a lot of people are worried they’ll be scrutinized for being “mean” or “too strict.” I may be “mean” now, but my kids will know how to be respectful adults who do what is expected of them. I work on this all year so that when it comes to Christmas the only thing people tell me is how well-behaved my kids are. They’re so used to making good choices throughout the year that it’s no big deal when I expect the same at holiday time. Their two weeks off school is usually stress-free and fun. We get a lot of bonding done over the holidays and make tons of great memories because I don’t have to be a fun-sucker.

Everyone’s parenting experience is different, so I’d love to hear your comments and techniques for keeping stress levels low at the holiday season! Whatever you celebrate, we’re all in this parenting thing together, so I’d love to learn how you make your winter break easy, festive and joyful!