I’m sure you read that with a little jingle in your mind haha. This season is so full of wonder, cheer, and excitement no matter what age you are. I’ve always loved Christmas for that reason and my kids do too. Well that and the days leading up where we go to parties, see family members, and they collect mounds of gifts. Yes, MOUNDS. It can be tricky, because the season is so heavily inundated with receiving. However, in trying to maintain a balance we must beware of fear based parenting this Christmas.
You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why…
we all sing that a little eerily right?
There is this underlying sentiment during this season that brings an overwhelming amount of expectation. A time of joy and happiness also greatly hinges on behavior. And with that comes a tone for kids that focuses specifically on the ratio between their behaviors and the gifts they’ll get by Christmas morning. Yes as parents we want our kids to be “good,” but sometimes the pendulum can swing too far. I hope to encourage each of us to bring balance to this time and several cautions away from fear a based parenting type of Christmas.
When fear becomes the focus
You can’t teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better they behave better. – Pam Leo
There are definitely benefits to addressing behavior concerns with our kids – we know this! It helps establish expectations and even boundaries – every kid needs those in healthy settings.
However, when we tie unknown results to behaviors they can be more detrimental than helpful. The dance of good behavior can become manipulative and messy. Instead of focusing on spreading joy, we as parents can unintentionally begin to lord over every move and “bad act.”
3 reasons to caution a fear based parenting approach
So as you place the elf on the shelf at night or remind your kids that whoever is watching… I encourage you to consider these very things friend:
1. Inconsistent & unrealistic expectations: Parenting styles are developed overtime. That may sound like a silly statement, but hear me out. If your parenting style shifts drastically during Christmas to win better behavior, I hate to tell you it’s not going to be effective. How you parent in August is the routine and expectation your kids really know in December. They may play along, but having unrealistic expectations change simply due to the holidays may not be fruitful for parenting in the long term. Consistently addressing behaviors allow for growth beyond gifts.
2. Passing Authority: When we tell our kids that Santa is watching or an elf or whomever – we relinquish our parenting authority to an imaginary being. Sure you may feel like it gets you off the hook as the “bad guy.” Honestly, it diminishes your parenting authority. If your child is more concerned about what someone else who only shows up once a year has to say than you – I would reconsider this approach. Once the Christmas tree is down and the presents are scattered around, you’ll be back to addressing the same behaviors with the same frustrations. Think of how your elf can be an addition to your final say – not BE the final say.
3. Unnecessary Anxiety: This time of year already has it’s own brewing anxiety with changing schedules and plans. No one really enjoys the feeling of someone is watching or monitoring you. Our kids don’t either. Be cautious of how you’re approaching the season isn’t adding extra stress that takes the joy out of this time. Anxiety manifests itself in so many different ways within children. Fear is a trigger for that.
Take every opportunity to remember the reason…
Please know what I’m sharing does not mean absolve everyone from consequence. It is to say be aware and yes vigilant that the focus of your Christmas doesn’t become fully behavior management. Possibly could this even be an encouragement of how you parent. Maybe a few adjustments in sticking to consequences, disciplining with restoration, and teaching rather than shaming could be your real turn around. I speak to myself daily on these things, so you’re not alone.
More than anything take every opportunity to remember that Christmas, the holidays, and honestly everyday is a time to reflect Christ. Even as a non believer it’s a chance to connect with your kids. Show them that we all make mistakes but they don’t break us and it certainly isn’t a reason to write people off.
So as you plan, share, and parent this season be gracious to your kids… because if we’re honest Christmas is a reminder of the most gracious gift God gave to us.