Earning Holiday Gifts


I was asked to write this guest blog article and the timing of the subject matter could not have been more perfect for me. As I write this, my feet are propped up on pillows and my 6 month pregnant body is exhausted. Running around all week shopping for the perfect gifts for my two boys, 3 and 5, has definitely taken its toll. Add to that bad behavior, including hitting, whining, not listening and being disrespectful, along with a travelling husband, and it’s a recipe for disaster. How do you justify giving your children gifts for the holidays and rewarding them when their behavior suggests otherwise?

Part of my disciplining strategy lately has definitely included using the boy’s gifts as a weapon, often threatening to head back to the store to return them. It’s an easy tactic to use that also lets them know they need to earn their presents. I am fully aware that I am never going to go run around and return all their gifts so therefore it’s an empty threat. I have actually trained myself to avoid empty threats since they are just not effective and set the tone that consequences don’t exist. Around the holidays though, it’s hard to avoid and it’s an easy “go to” when frustrated and searching for a quick punishment threat. As we all know, being a mother is hard because it always seems that you are doing everything for everyone else and the feeling of not feeling appreciated, is a common one. We want our children to know that we spent all day running around from store to store, looking for the perfect gift for them and we want to hear a thank you once in a while. Unfortunately, expecting your child to understand that concept isn’t always realistic. I do all I do for my kids because I want to, not because I have to. Just knowing the joy I am about to bring to them soon is reward enough for me. However, when they misbehave, it deflates my balloon and makes all the hard work seem like a waste of time.

So are we not going to let our kids celebrate the holidays or not reward them for a year of being great kids? Of course not. So how do we come to a happy medium where we can feel good about our parenting but at the same time allow our children to enjoy the fruits of our labor? Well I certainly had a lot of opportunities to ponder this as my children’s bad behavior kept repeating itself throughout the day today.

I decided to step away from the situation and remember why I was shopping for presents for my boys in the first place. They are amazing little guys who fill me with love and joy, and make my life complete. Are they supposed to behave like angels 100% of the time? At the age of 3 and 5, definitely not! I think it’s important to remember that presents at holiday time is a reward for the whole year, not just the day you are purchasing them. Until the gift giving day arrives, I have implemented our behavior chart again (see previous post: http://mommymasters.blogspot.com/search?q=behavior+chart), which appears when the children seem to forget how to behave. I also took a step back and tried to understand where this unusually bad conduct was coming from. Realizing my 3 year old recently said goodbye to his binky and goodbye to most of his naps, definitely has an effect on his actions. He is more tired than usual, not as calm and is still adjusting, which means I need to be more patient with him and more understanding. Even so, part of my behavior training still included taking away certain privileges for a few days, such as no dessert, no movies in the car, etc. My hope is that in the next few weeks, they will realize their bad behavior has consequences and as they start to change their mindset, I will feel good about presenting them with all their gifts. In addition to taking away fun luxuries, I also want my children to understand how their actions make me feel, and approach them on an emotional level. This is of course easier to do once the anger from the bad behavior subsides. I definitely think it’s important for kids to not only understand the physical consequences, like taking things away, but the emotional ones as well, such as how it makes Mommy feel when they behave badly. Once my kids understood how frustrated I was and how unappreciated I felt, they were quick to apologize and all the yelling, empty threats and tears ended, and real conversation and results started happening. In the end, I love my kids more than life itself, and 9 times out of 10, they are well behaved and well mannered, so I am not going to let a few off days ruin a wonderful holiday.

Happy Holidays from Mommy Masters!