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Holidays Mean More Than Heartburn

By Jim Fay

Every parent has dreaded one family get together or another.

Whether it's a birthday party, Thanksgiving Dinner, or a New Year's celebration, we've all seen situations where youngsters have become the center of attention at the expense of everyone else's enjoyment.

A child becomes so out of control or demanding that people begin to think, "Oh, great. Here we go again. Why can't his parents do something about this? We didn't come here for this!" Others are embarrassed for the parents, thinking, "Thank God that's not my child." In most cases, the parents themselves are embarrassed but not sure what to do to regain control.

A few simple Love and Logic® guidelines can help parents stop this potential nightmare and make holiday get-togethers joyous occasions where kids and parents all have a good time.

Kids quickly recognize a parent's reluctance to handle discipline in "public."

aDon't fall into this trap. A child's radar picks up on parental insecurity and rushes in to capitalize on a chance to do things that are not acceptable: "Mom isn't going to discipline me here. Now I can finally get my way. People are going to know I'm here and in control. Watch me!"

Family and friends appreciate a willingness to provide loving discipline.

They know about kids and how they should behave. Most will not criticize you for taking some time to deal with misbehavior, but many will look down on you if you don't live up to your parental duty.

Excuse yourself while handling the situation.

I remember a dad who had his misbehaving two-year-old sit at his feet during dinner. The child screamed and carried on while dad calmly addressed those at the table with, "Excuse us. As you can see, we are having a little situation. I'm sure you all understand." And they all did. Later several relatives told him how proud they were of him for being willing to deal with his child in a calm, loving manner.

When kids cause a problem, hand it back to them.

This is an important Love and Logic rule. For example, if a child starts whining about sharing a particular toy or the lack of pizza on the dinner menu, don't rush in and save the child. Instead, try: "Thanks for bringing that to my attention, I know it can be frustrating. Please let me know how it works out." Many children quickly learn to solve their own problems rather than bringing everything to Mom or Dad.

Hold a Love and Logic Strategic Training Session.

Two parents I know made plans to use their next family gathering as a learning opportunity after an especially bad experience. Mom and Dad secretly hired their youngster's least-favorite baby-sitter to follow them to their family visit. The baby-sitter waited in her car. As soon as the child started acting up, the parents called her on the cell phone. Moments later there was a knock at the front door… and you can guess who was there. She took the misbehaving - and very surprised - child home and made him go to his own room. The child paid the baby-sitter out of his own allowance.

This kind of training session sends a powerful message: Children are responsible for their own actions, and you are expected to behave the same in public as at home. The problem was handed back to the person who caused it, and he was on his best behavior at the next family celebration.

Kids who have loving limits learn to love themselves. This child - and yours - will have a much better time during the holidays and throughout the year when discipline is consistent, logical, and provided with love.


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Jim Fay is president and cofounder of the Love and Logic Institute in Golden, CO, and coauthor of the best-selling book, Parenting with Love and Logic. For more information about Love and Logic parenting and teaching techniques, call 800-338-4065.

©Jim Fay
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For more information, call the Love and Logic Institute, Inc. at 800-338-4065.