Tree trimmed, presents mostly wrapped and stashed behind the couch, shopping list for Christmas dinner growing, and your child or grandchild’s behavior suddenly excels past naughty to out-of-control.
Do you destroy all hope for a ‘calm and bright’ holiday by grounding them, cancelling favorite events like winter prom, solstice party, or a trip to see Santa?
Do you shutdown the family vacation plans? Un-invite the rest of your adult kids and their kids? Or do you try to muddle through?
None of the above. You handle misbehaviors with consequences that relate to their actions–not to family traditions and once-a-year (or once-a-life-time) events.
Anxiety, Fear, Bitterness, Anger.
Realize that kids’ stress levels, regardless if toddler or teen, rise with special events due to past experiences involving their mom and/or dad and gets tangled up what they see and hear in media. The Hallmark channel of eternal good endings. Also, recognize that while other kids at school are talking about presents, trips and fun, they may be remembering domestic violence, passed out parents, a police person at their door, or prison visits. They want, as my own adopted grandson Chad said when he was in his early twenties, “…just a few happy memories with my mom.” Or they may want a few happy memories without their mom.
We all need to feel in control of our lives. They can’t control their past, or their parents–whether they are currently in or out of their lives–so they try to protect themselves from further hurt subconsciously by acting out. They try to force you into becoming ‘the bad guy’ so, in the crazy way immature brains process, they can prevent anticipated let downs and/or keep mom or dad safely in a fictional role where they are the victim rather than the problem. They reason, “nothing good ever happens to me,” so they do their best to make sure it doesn’t.
Don’t buy in. Refuse to take away opportunities for family and fun. Don’t reinforce their faulty thinking and ultimately make your life harder. After all, you end up in house arrest with them, and often take the brunt of their mounting frustration and anger.
Instead, give consequences that counteract bad behaviors. If it expands their awareness of others’ feelings so much the better. For example, if they hit their brother then have them read their brother a bedtime story about bullying. If they put their fist through a wall, they repair it right alongside you, or they earn the money doing chores to pay to have it repaired. Keep the consequence duration, and the talk time preceding it, as short and focused as possible.
Then go do something else that will limit their opportunity to disengage, or ramp-up their anger, further. If they like sports then sign them up for a Parks & Recreation martial arts class or get them involved in youth hockey. Suggest they invite a friend and drive them to a comic book store, a favorite band concert, or together paint pottery. Engage them in what interest them, not you.
The holiday you save will be your own. The future you invest in is joint-owned.