No More Tantrums at Christmas Time!

by | Dec 17, 2018 | Challenging Behavior, Uncategorized

Christmas is supposed to be fun for everyone, right?

  • Music, decorations, lights, presents and parties.
  • Special cookies and treats (fudge!), visits with family
  • phone calls (with video), snowmen and special church services
  • screaming, crying children

Hold on a second, that last one wasn’t on your agenda, and definitely not part of your vision of a wonderful Christmas season.  How did that happen?

In all those classic Christmas movies that you love to watch at this time of year, there’s never a child who’s crying and out of control.  If they are crying, then it’s quietly and they’re doing their best to not cause a scene.

Your child, on the other hand, is screaming in the middle of the party for everyone to see and comment on.

How did this happen?  Well, regardless what you may feel, it’s not happening because you’re a terrible mother, or because there’s something wrong with your child.

  • Perhaps he’s just hit another child and you reprimanded him
  • Or perhaps she’s had too little sleep and too much sugar
  • Or it’s so loud and there’s so much going on around him that all of the sensory input has become too much for him to handle

There’s always a reason, and figuring it out now will help you in the future, which might be small comfort when you’re in the middle of the blow out.

As you do your best to manage your child in the midst of their crying, remembering that there is a reason for it may allow you to feel some compassion for him or her.  They need you to be their safe, steady anchor no matter how embarrassed or distressed you may be.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could prevent tantrums and blow outs from happening in the first place?

It’s possible to circumvent many blow outs.  Prioritizing and preparation are key, for both you and your child.



Prioritizing Your Wishes for the Season

There are so many wonderful, fun activities this time of year.  Don’t you wish you could do them all?

Unfortunately, you can’t, but you can do the things you most want to.  What do you want for you, for your child, for your family?  How do you want to feel during and after Christmas?

Decide that, then pick and choose among all the activities and events you could do.  What do you most want to do?  What’s most fun, most meaningful, most likely to bring you and your family closer together?  What do you want to teach your child this time of year?  Just a few things you might want to teach them:

  • How to say hi to people he or she sees rarely
  • How to participate in large gatherings and have fun
  • How to be of service to others

While you’re making your list, be sure to leave empty space (white space) in your calendar for the inevitable cold or just breathing room where you have no obligations.  You might have to move activities around to accommodate other people, but you’re more likely to do the activities that are most important to you.

Preparation for your child

Before an event or activity, talk to your child about where you’re going, what they can expect to see there, how long you’ll be there, and who will be there.  If they’re very young, draw pictures or show them photographs of what they may experience when they get to the event.  I like the inexpensive photo albums you can buy at the dollar store, because you can slip the pics in and view them with your child over and over.  You can also take the album with you to the event to remind them of what you talked about.

Take healthy snacks with you in case your child doesn’t like the food where you’re going, and to circumvent ‘hangry’ behavior.  Do your best to feed them healthy food at home during this time, because there’s a wealth of sugary treats available to them everywhere else.

Try to keep your child to a regular routine as much as possible.  It’s too easy to stay up late ‘just this once’ or to skip regular meals to snack on junk food because you’ve run out of time doing extra things.  ‘Just this once’ occasions have a habit of piling up at this time of year!

Preparation for You

Now that you’ve got your child as prepared as possible, you may feel more in control of the season.  This is good!  Feeling in control is key to self-confidence, and the more self-confident you feel, the more secure you can help your child to be.

Still, don’t forget that you can’t control everything.  You can only control yourself, as human beings of all ages have this thing called free will.  You can set the stage, prepare all the actors, and rehearse (always a good idea for new activities), but what they do when the curtain goes up is never guaranteed.

Try to think of scenarios that might happen despite your best efforts to prepare your child.

  • If your child tantrums or hits, other adults may be judgmental or comment unkindly
  • your child may ‘hate’ the activity you chose, and you may feel disappointed
  • the activity you chose may fall flat and no one enjoys it, making you feel unappreciated

Please remember

  • how your child behaves is not a direct reflection on your mothering skills
  • to give yourself grace when things don’t go according to plan
  • to take 3 deep breaths every time you feel tense or stressed – and smile on that 3rd breath!  It feels so good
  • your child needs you most when they are acting their worst

But most of all, give yourself grace.  Who says you have to make things perfect all the time?

Besides, preparing your child and yourself gives you the best chance at having a wonderful time.  Celebrate what goes well, learn from what could have gone better, and laugh (later) about those cringe-worthy times.

Make memories, have fun and be good to your family, your child and yourself.  This could be the best Christmas season ever.

On the other hand, one sometimes doesn’t show up as their most stellar self at Christmas.

Here’s a memory of a Christmas when I did not exhibit my best self:

We took my son to see Santa Claus when he was 3.  That’s when we found out he was terrified of adults in costume.  He cried and wouldn’t leave my husband’s arms, while every other child there calmly, happily skipped up to Santa to get a candy cane.  I couldn’t help feeling disappointed and expressing it aloud.  We never did get a photo of him in Santa’s lap, though we gave him other opportunities over the years!  I can’t believe how deprived I felt at the time!  Silly, right?

What are some of your best Christmas memories with your uncommon child?  On the other hand, which ones still make you cringe?  Anything that might seem less important someday?


Be Well!






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