Ok parents, take a deep breath – the holidays are here. Candy, sugar, toys, presents, fun! Also, tears, disappointments, comparisons to what “everyone else got”, etc. Yes it’s all about to be here. No wonder the holiday season is considered by most to be the highest stress time of the year.
BUT – it doesn’t have to be. Here’s some simple tips to keep your crew happy and peaceful.
At the Dojo we always say, “Paying attention keeps me safe.” And that is true. But in this context we could also say, “Doing one thing at a time keeps me sane.” If you try to keep these three small tips in mind, you’re likely to “like” the holidays this year!
Tip #1: Keep the focus small
Make sure to accurately set the expectations your kids have. When you are going to be at Uncle Bob’s for Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to set limits before you get there. “Kids we’re not going swimming in Uncle Bob’s inflatable army raft.” While we often want our kids to “know” the rules, when excitement and sugar are involved, those rules aren’t normally top of mind. So keep the focus of any party or get-together small. Let your kids know up front what is expected and what will happen.
Tip #2: Don’t Manipulate, Coach
Some parents fall into the trap of manipulation when they don’t even realize they’re doing it. “Johnny if you don’t stop yelling, I’m going to send you to your room.” Now this in many ways seems like just a normal situation. The problem is, it just doesn’t work. It puts you in the position of constantly being the kill-joy or the behavior police and of always having to think up worse and worse consequences. But, “isn’t that what parents do??” Well yes, some do, but the role is best fulfilled when the parents are the primary resource for their kids potential. Think of it more like coaching your kids. High performance of a team or good behavior of a child is a matter of motivation without manipulation. Here’s some good examples of both:
Threats – If you don’t stop doing X, you’ll never get any presents.
Counting – I’m going to count to 5 and if you don’t stop doing X by the time I get to 5…
Pleading & Comparing – Please stop being so difficult. None of the other kids are doing this.
Bargaining – If you’ll be good, I’ll give you some cake.
Intimidating – Don’t get on my bad side!
Withholding – Fine then. You’ll just be alone during dinner.
The reason these don’t work is because they are win/lose situations. The only thing that builds healthy relationships is win/win. Sometimes we have to really get creative to see a win for both parties. But if we look deeply we’ll find it. It’s always there.
Inspiring – I’m going to do 10 pushups during each commercial while we watch the game, who can beat me?
Identify – I felt just the way you do right now when I was 8 yrs old at Thanksgiving and didn’t want to go to my Aunt Suzie’s, but I tried to find something good about it and it turned out ok. Let’s make a plan for how this can be ok.
Be Honest – The holidays are about more than just getting. They started centuries ago with other people who had very little finding ways to help people in need. Who can we help and how?
Gratitude – We have a real chance to show appreciation for (relative or friend) by thanking them for their gift with a happy heart even if you don’t like it. What we do like and can appreciate is that another person took the time to do something for us.
Tip #3: Slow Down, Yeah right!
Schedule less things so that quality overcomes quantity. As humans we don’t do well when we’re distracted, always thinking about what’s next. In fact modern neuroscience tells us that we can’t even multi-task. It’s just a mental deception. What we really do is switch between things quickly and in doing so lower our IQ by 10 points! Not only are we not happy, but our brains are malfunctioning. Why do this to ourselves? And why do we allow our kids to do it? It’s teach a life long pattern of stress and a constant desire for more. Unsustainable and not very fulfilling!
So we need to be still. Breathe. And decide for each day, what is the most important result we want for us, for our kids, and for the group we may be with that day. Then ask yourself, “what do we need to do or not do to achieve this outcome?” If we can demonstrate this focus, our kids will see it and begin to do likewise. Remember kids often do what they see you do.
Keep the focus small, motivate not manipulate, and slow down. While these tips may seem very basic, it is our discipline to practice the basics that keeps us grounded and at peace. As we say in class, “Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the mastery of conflict.”
Practice and Enjoy the holidays!