Parenting Tips for the Weeks Between Turkey and Tinsel
Teenage Tammy wants to spend Christmas afternoon with her BFF not her FAM. Jimmy Junior wants a pair of tennis shoes for Christmas that his parents can’t possibly afford. Distracted D.J. goes into battle mode when asked to put down the video game controller and set the holiday dinner table. Exactly how should parents manage these issues during the holiday season?
Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice, authors of “For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid,” offer the following tips based on research featured in their boo
Offer choices or alternatives. The authors’ research shows that kids are addicted to freedom and fearful of losing it, so when you can, offer choices or alternatives to a blunt “no.” For example, if Sally wants to spend all Christmas afternoon with her BFF, instead of a knee-jerk “no,” a parent might consider allowing her to spend a few hours at her friend’s house when Grandma Judy wasn’t expecting to see her anywa
Make expectations clear. Make expectations clear so kids don’t fear losing their all-important freedom during the holidays. For example, a parent might tell Jimmy that he can use the car to go to the mall to Christmas shop as long as he is back in the driveway by 9:15 p.m. And provided he always returns the car by the appointed time and follows the other reasonable car rules, he won’t have to worry about losing his extra car privileges throughout the holiday seaso
Understand that gift requests and rejections often point to identity needs. Ninety-three percent of the teens surveyed say they deeply want to develop and show their own identity, separate from their parents – a need parents might misunderstand. For example, Tommy’s begging for those particular sneakers isn’t about the price tag. He’s wanting that “look” to make a statement that “This is who I am!” Solution? Validate his need to make that statement by shopping with him to find something else (a backpack, a shirt) that allows him to express his developing identity within the family budget. Also, when choosing gifts for Tommy on your own, remain somewhat emotionally detached and keep the receipt
Listen first and often. Learning to listen in the way a kid needs can head off a lot of the friction otherwise felt during the holidays. When Susie tells you her teacher criticized her in front of the class, she isn’t looking for you to demand the teacher’s phone number and fix the problem. In fact, 81 percent of kids surveyed said they want Mom or Dad to listen to how they are feeling about the problem first, and only then ask if they can help. Commiserating about the embarrassment she felt will make her feel heard, make her less-stressed, and defuse the jangling emotions that might otherwise cloud dinner with your Aunt Glady
Consider that attitude can be a symptom of fear or insecurity. The research showed that many exasperating teen attitudes are actually signs that they are swamped by an underlying fear or insecurity in another area of their life. D.J.’s sullenness over being asked twice to set the table may signal that he’s actually still feeling like a failure after dropping the game-winning pass last Friday night. Realizing the intense fear of being “left out” that underlies Julie’s less-than-polite requests to go to a party can allow a parent to address not only the outward attitude, but the fear beneath it
In “For Parents Only” (Multnomah Books, 2007), authors Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice offer a glimpse into the hearts and minds of teenagers, based on survey results from more than 1,2000 teenagers nationwide.