I asked Michelle Nicholasen and Barabara O’Neal, authors of the book I Brake for Meltdowns: How to Handle the Most Exasperating Behavior of Your 2- to 5-Year-Old (De Capo Press) for some advice on how to deal with some of the most common issues presented by the holidays. Here’s what they had to say about the pressure to buy more presents.
Start a new family tradition while they are still young: Everyone gets three presents. (Or, ahem, Santa gives three special presents.) That’s right, three, or less. Nobody needs more than that. Break away from your own childhood memories of wall-to-wall presents. Your child doesn’t need that many gifts to get excited and feel loved. Try to remain even-keeled as you respond to your child’s umpteenth pleading. Rather than giving in and making deals with your child about exactly what he will “get,” preserve a sense of wonder. “The fun thing about the holidays is that presents are surprises. You can write your wishes down on a list. But we never know what we’ll get.” And if he asks again, shrug your shoulders and say, “Did you write it on your list? We won’t know what the presents will be until we open them—that’s the surprise.”
Emphasize the “giving” part of the holidays. Involve your child in making simple presents for others, like cookies, bags of granola, a paper-framed drawing. If you want to get fancy, there are some nifty kits at arts and crafts stores for making: soap, sun catchers, foam frames and magnets, sculpty clay creations.
Another way to emphasize giving is to help your child pick out two or three toys he no longer plays with and give them to a charity, church, or swap shop. Explain that it’s for children who don’t have many toys this holiday. Let him decide which ones to pick. Not every child will go for this, but you don’t know until you try.
How about the miserly attitudes that come out expressly at Christmas? They sound like this: I hate that color! Aw, don’t I have any more? I barely got anything! I don’t have any presents! I want a striped one, too! Holidays do seem to bring out the worst in kids at times. It is our job as parents to rehearse a few scenarios with our kids and let them know the basic manners we expect of them. For example, they might open a present they don’t like, or they might like a present someone else wants. It’s okay to have those feelings, but they still have to say thank you and keep their comments for mom and dad. You can role-play these scenes at home the day before the event.
Find out more about I Brake for Meltdowns: How to Handle the Most Exasperating Behavior of Your 2- to 5-Year-Old here.
Photo courtesy of Manic Mommies