How to Get Your Child to Behave Better During the Holidays

The holidays bring out the worst in some kids.
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When it comes to a child’s behavior, the holiday season might not be the most wonderful time of year. Instead of holiday cheer, you may find you’re dealing with non-compliance, hyperactivity, and colossal temper tantrums.

Why Kids Act Worse During the Holidays

Despite the threat of Santa’s naughty list, many children really struggle to follow the rules during the last couple of months of the year. Here are a few reasons why it’s so hard for kids to behave during the holidays:

  • Parental stress - The holiday season takes an emotional and financial toll on parents that kids often sense. If you’re stressed out, your child will experience increased stress too, which may mean more rule violations.
  • Exciting activities - Thanksgiving usually triggers the start of a hectic holiday season. Holiday parties, school vacation, and special events can be so exciting that children struggle to contain themselves.
  • Less structure - During the holidays, there are often a lot of exceptions to the rules. Later bedtimes, increased sugar, and extended family visits often mean kids get out of their usual routines.

Tips for Managing Holiday Behavior Problems

Certainly, not all children behave worse during the holidays. In fact, some kids thrive during the holiday season. Fewer extra-curricular activities and a break from school can help some kids behave better.

But for those who struggle with the holiday season, it’s important to take steps to help them manage their behavior.

Here are a few tips for managing holiday behavior problems:

  • Plan ahead - Spontaneous shopping trips with an overtired child or hunting for a Christmas tree when your child is hungry isn’t likely to go well. Plan ahead and try to ensure that your child’s needs are taken care of to reduce behavior problems.
  • Limit your child’s extra activities - While it may seem like a good idea to attend every holiday function you can squeeze into your schedules, too much activity can be overwhelming. Try to choose which parties and activities you attend carefully. It’s better to catch a few festive activities with a relatively well-behaved child, rather than go scurry from activity to activity with a frazzled, cranky child.
  • Give your child things to do - Help your child find appropriate activities that will keep him busy. Let him bring a few toys to a holiday party so he can stay occupied for a while. Or, keep him busy when you’re baking holiday treats by letting him help.
  • Make your expectations clear ahead of time. The holidays can be filled with a lot of new experiences, so it’s important to explain your expectations ahead of time. Tell your child he needs to hold your hand in the mall when you’re shopping during a busy time. Or make it clear that he needs stay seated and remain quiet when you’re watching a Christmas play.
  • Follow through with consequences consistently. Although it’s never fun to take away privileges or put a child in time-out in the middle of a family gathering or festive activity, it’s important to follow through with consequences when necessary. Show your child that you’re still going to enforce the rules and that you’re willing to help him learn to make healthier choices when he steps out of line--even during the holidays.

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