Have you heard of the parents that cancelled Christmas this year because they were tired of the entitled attitudes of their 3 young kids (ages 5, 8, and 11)?
John and Lisa Henderson explained to the media that they felt their boys’ behavior was starting to get too “disrespectful” and “entitled” and wanted to send a message to the boys that they should be grateful for the nice toys that they already had.
According to their BLOG, the Hendersons will still enjoy a family meal together and participate in other Christmas traditions (like going to Church activities), but instead of buying gifts for their kids, they will be giving that money to charity instead.
Some critics believe that this punishment is a little harsh (and I have to admit that I am one of those people), especially because this seems like typical behavior for kids between the ages of 5 and 11. I remember having to remind my own kids when they were the same age that Christmas is not just about getting new toys, but it is also about spending time with family and friends, reflecting on the religious aspect of Christmas, and being generous to those people in need.
The story of the Hendersons reacting so harshly to their kids’ selfish attitudes got me thinking about what MODERN PARENTS can do BEFORE resorting to something as serious as canceling the family’s Christmas.
Therefore, I have compiled a list of 6 things you can do as a smart MODERN PARENT before you are tempted to resort to canceling the holiday celebration as your house.
- Expect your child to be selfish sometimes. This is normal. Every child’s ability to empathize with others and to demonstrate selfless acts without prompting by a parent varies. This ability also largely depends upon your child’s age – generally, the younger the child, the harder it is for the child to be naturally selfless. As such, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that your child is “bad” if they act selfishly; instead, understand that selflessness is a life skill that you need to help nurture in your child through lots of instruction, modeling, and guidance.
- Set Limits and stick to them. As the leader in your family, have a pre-determined plan for how much fun you will allow your child to “indulge” in during the holidays. For example, establish beforehand how many sweets your child will be allowed to have at a holiday party, or how many gifts will be under the tree this year. You are the parent, so it is your job to set the standards for your family – AND THEN STICK TO THOSE STANDARDS!
- Accept the fact that your child will not like the limits that you have set – and that’s ok! You know that your job as a parent isn’t to make sure your child is happy all the time, but it’s still hard when they are mad at us. MODERN PARENTS instill in their children PASSIONS, VALUES, AND BELIEFS through consistent limit setting. In addition, be prepared that your child will test the limits you have set over and over again; therefore, be prepared to say “No” to your child over and over again. It’s draining to maintain these limits, but it is worth it in the end.
- Communicate your expectations. Clearly express to your child your expectations regarding the holiday. For example, I have always told my children that I would like them to make a Christmas list, but it doesn’t mean they will be getting everything on their list. The list is merely a suggestion. I remind them of this fact EVERY Christmas so that there are no entitled comments about what they didn’t get on Christmas.
- Treat entitlement as a teachable moment. When your child’s entitlement rears it ugly head during the holidays, use this opportunity as a way to teach your child about your family’s values regarding the holidays. In addition, remember that your actions speak louder than words to your child – be sure to always model gratitude and selflessness in front of your child so that they will learn the appropriate way to behave during this special time of year.
- Be ready to teach this over and over again until your child “gets it”. Kids RARELY “get it” after the first lecture on a new behavior; therefore, repetition is key with kids of all ages. Even when your child appears to be behaving as expected for a while, be prepared for their old behavior to relapse. This is normal. Be prepared with a “booster” lecture to remind them that you expect that behavior to last long-term.
- Provide opportunities for your child to practice empathy and generosity. It is important to provide many opportunities during the holidays where your child can practice being empathetic and generous. Participating in charitable activities through Church or school is a good opportunity to allow your child to practice these life-long skills. Your child can also practice generosity within their own family by doing things such as spending the day helping grandma cook the holiday meal or by babysitting their younger sibling so you can do some holiday preparations. Remember what they say – charity begins at home!
Don’t let the craziness of the holidays turn you into a PARENTAL SCROOGE! The goal of the holidays should be for families to spend focused, special time together.[tweetthis]Don’t let the craziness of the holidays turn you into a PARENTAL SCROOGE! [/tweetthis]
The holidays are the perfect time to bring families closer together, so try to take the toddler tantrums, the adolescent angst, and the teenager travails in stride. Prepare your expectations regarding the holidays ahead of time, communicate those expectations to your family, and be prepared to be consistent in maintaining those expectations (even if you have to put your foot down over and over and over and over AGAIN!).
Your family is worth the effort!