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, and 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
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 reminded (over and over again) 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. Whatever scenario you’re most worried about… go over it with the kids.
Don’t: Forget YOU Are The Mom
I’ve heard from many mothers of little ones whose in-laws or extended family 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 kind yet 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. In fact, it’s the building block for teaching honesty.
“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 (ask me how I know!)
This means we imagine the worst. We exaggerate what is likely to happen and exaggerate what did 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. Deep down others expect you to do this anyway.
(Wooden Advent Calendar here, similar here, similar here | Advent Devotionals here)
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 or ill of your family in front of your kids
Your child might scream NO and run away from you after you’ve given him a direct instruction.
These things happen. At least in my house…
But saying… “he’s a hellion” won’t make it better. In fact, it may just be what others remember about your little one if they don’t get to see y’all often. 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.”
Read: The Difference Between Childishness And Foolishness
Do: Prepare kids and set expectations
Start a few days out and let your children know what’ll be happening. We just let our 3 year old know he’d be moving into a sibling’s room so his grandparents could have his room for a month and… well… I’m glad we started this talk early. That’s all I have to say about that.
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. If your family member has a lot of rules, ask them to share the rules with the kids’ themselves.
Read: What You Should Teach Your Children Before They Open Presents
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.
Tis the season… countdown to Christmas with these lovely advent cards🎄.Learn More
- How To Correct Your Kids In Front Of Others (Without Losing Your Cool)
- A Crucial Conversation To Have With Kids Before They Open Their Presents
- How To Have (Or Be) Flexible House Guests While Keeping Your Routine
- “Is Santa Real?”
- Free Printable Advent Devotion For Moms & Kids
- How To Get Ahead Of The Holiday Rush & Slow Down
- How To Write A Christmas Card People Want To Read
- Tips For Hosting Holiday Parties With Kids
- Family Christmas Traditions That Won’t Break The Bank
Thanks for the tips, Rachel! I am a mom to a two year old girl and recently had some struggles with behavior at a family birthday party. Love your blog! Thanks again.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, especially for the “don’t be upset by their unreality” advice.
Rachel Norman says
This is a great article! Thank you for writing it. Im so glad I read it. I totally understand my kid is going to act out ‘once or twice’, but Im glad to hear how to say it to people “I can handle it, and come get me so I can take care of the situation”. Thats my mess up…I need to stop trying to please others and stand up for my kid when she can’t right now.
This is SO encouraging!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
This was perfect timing and so helpful! We have some bossy aunts and uncles who I feel like I brace myself for every year. We all get along great for the most part but there is always a time or two when I see them getting sassy with my two year old when they think I’m not paying attention.
Love the “I will handle this”! Tucking that in my back pocket for this weekend.
How about advice / encouragement for those of us with families (in-laws) who think kids should have a free-for-all and you’re too strict simply because you discipline at all?