Want a formula for childhood misbehavior? Let’s plan a month when they don’t get nearly enough sleep, feed them tons of sugar, drag them all over the place, make them sit for hours in the homes of relatives they barely know…and leave their presents at home they have been asking for since…forever.
As parents, the last thing we want is our kids misbehaving or throwing a tantrum in front of extended family or in laws. The rest of our holiday will probably be spent listening to criticism and “helpful” advice.
There are actually some things you can do to lessen the chances your kids will go into full meltdown mode at your Aunt Bess’ house.
- Make sure your kids get plenty of sleep. Seriously. I know it’s difficult with all of the special events, but your kids need at least 9-12 hours of sleep a night – even your teens. If they have a short night, find a time when they can lay down and quietly “rest”. Let them have a book, if you need to encourage them. It’s amazing how many will fall to sleep when “resting”.
- Get some healthy foods in to their bodies. It’s not necessary to ban all sugar. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting. If they have just had a healthy meal though, they won’t eat as many cookies as if they are starving. Healthy meals will also stabilize their blood sugar – helping them with energy and behaviors.
- Take a walk or try out the new bikes. This is especially important after sitting in a car for long periods of time and then being expected to sit quietly or go to bed for the night. It allows them to work off some of that pent up energy.
- Catch your kids while they are still in temptation mode and nip it in the bud. Just like it is almost impossible to stop a toddler in full tantrum mode, it’s very difficult to get through to a child or a teen who is already well into the middle of their disobedience. You can often see it in the eyes of your child before they begin a tantrum or create a scene. I would guess you have thirty seconds to two minutes while the child is tempted to snap, disobey or go into tantrum mode. If you can catch the child while those wheels are still turning and give a loving, but firm “Don’t even think about it”, you would be amazed at how many times it works. (Distracting or addressing the core need of rest or hunger at that moment can also diffuse the situation.)
- Do not allow your child to cross the line into disobedience and then start counting. The only thing more ineffective than missing the line and trying to stop bad behavior after it starts is counting. Your child should be expected to comply with your rules the very first time you ask. If there are extenuating circumstances, you should give them a fair hearing. Counting, however, tells your children they can continue to misbehave until you snap and suddenly decide to give consequences or give up out of exhaustion or because you couldn’t think of any more fractions between two and three.
- Stay engaged with your children. Notice the signs when they need food or a nap. Figure out what their faces look like when they are tempted to misbehave. Then stay engaged when you are with your child. Meeting important needs or at least keeping them informed of when those needs will be met can help. I would also suggest taking some healthy snacks with you to help them last between meals without candy.
Try these tips and see if your children are “better behaved” for your extended family this holiday season. Then maybe you can listen to lots of compliments instead of criticism!