How to be a confident parent in front of your whole family… even if your kids act wild.
I’ll never forget the first time my oldest threw a complete fit in front of others.
I was so shocked I didn’t respond for like 10 Mississippi’s.
She didn’t want to come to the table because she was fine, thank-you-very-much, playing outside. My mortification increased with the intensity of her shrieking.
I was busy taking her behavior personally when a friend looked me straight in the eye and said, cool as a cucumber… “It’s fine, they all try it once or twice.” While once or twice turned out to be an understatement, I’ve never forgotten my friend’s grace. Baby girl stopped shrieking and we all moved on and had a fabulous evening.
But it isn’t always like that.
I’ve heard from many mothers who struggle at family gatherings. They have family members who are vocal in their disagreement. Others who are judgmental of their choices. Even spouses who side with his family instead of his wife. This can make moms extremely nervous in the weeks prior to family time around the holidays.
If you’re nervous about how things are going to go this season… use these Do’s and Don’ts.
How To Be A Confident Parent With Extended Family: 8 Do’s & Don’ts
Here are some things to consider leading up to Christmas.
Do: Teach your children manners
We feel caught in embarrassing mom moments when our children don’t act like we thought they should. They don’t say thank you, make eye contact, or respond appropriately to a question. The fact is this: children should be taught what we expect.
Teach your children how to greet others, how to respond when spoken to, or what they are expected to do in certain situations. Children will nearly always make good choices in new situations when they’ve been shown what to do.
Don’t: Relinquish your authority
I’ve heard from many mothers of little ones whose in-laws don’t approve of their parenting style. This creates confusion, shame, and doubt in a mother’s heart.
Am I doing a bad job?
Will my kids be messed up?
Should I change the way I discipline?
These aren’t necessarily bad questions if you’re asking them for yourself, but please give yourself credit. If there are critical family members who jump in and do your job for you, a firm “I will handle this” goes a long way.
Do: Let family know how they can help
If you have confident and outspoken family members who are prone to disciplining your child for you (without your approval or desire) then straight talk is the best defense.
“Please come get me if my child misbehaves and I’ll be sure to handle it.”
On the other hand, some family members are quite reserved and won’t overstep. You can give them permission to help your children or respond to their needs. Sometimes people feel nervous to say “yes” or “no” to your kids for fear they’ll do the wrong thing, but you can release those family members to use their best judgment.
Don’t: Forget your boundaries
Family gatherings can be really tough for some mothers. Strained relationships and value differences can make for tense times over the dinner table. And, to make things a bit worse, Type A moms are notorious for catastrophizing.
This means we imagine the worst. We exaggerate what is likely to happen and exaggerate what does happen when we think about it later. We can be so busy worrying about how to please others that we forget an important truth…
We don’t have to please others.
If your family or your in-laws make you uncomfortable or discipline your child in a way you don’t approve, stand up for yourself and your child. If they stage an intervention and you feel uncomfortable, you can take your child and leave. Determine to have a nice time with family, but know your limits.
Do: Give some “heads up”
When one of my children is sick, teething, or has been in a difficult phase, I’ll often let family know. I’ve been known to say variations on this…
“My son didn’t nap well this morning so he may be a tad cranky.”
“She’s teething right now and may not quite be herself.”
If you are worried your children will behave questionably, take some of the stress off yourself by giving a heads up. Most family members will be happy to comfort a tired one, soothe a baby in pain, or give space to a preschooler who is trying to assert their independence.
Don’t: Speak ill of your kids in front of family
Your child might scream NO and run away from you after you’ve given him a direct instruction. These things happen. But saying… “he’s a hellion” won’t make it better. In fact, it may just be what others remember about your little one. And you don’t want anyone to remember your child for one isolated childish incident.
The Christmas gathering might not be the time or place to have a reckoning with your toddler. Instead use my tried and true phrase… “We’re working on it.”
Do: Prepare kids and set expectations
Start a few days out and let your children know what’ll be happening. If you have guests coming, explain what it means to share your home and stuff with others. Let them know that later – when guests have left – things will go back to normal.
If you’re going to be at a family member’s house they aren’t familiar with for Christmas, show them where they can play and roam and where they cannot. Give them physical boundaries as well(i.e. don’t go past the sidewalk) and you’ll be surprised how well they behave.
Don’t: Forget that kids are only human
Don’t expect your children to behave perfectly. They won’t. They can’t. Neither can we. If your children act out in front of others, have a sense of humor about it. Address it, move on, and try not to stress. If you have family members who expect obedience 100% of the time, don’t be upset by their unreality.
Your kids may throw a tantrum, cry because they’re tired, or refuse to eat dinner… but that’s part of life with kids.
The more stressed we are, the more stressed our kids will be.
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