Strategies for Reducing Stress During the Holidays by Marianne Neifert

Remember that your own stress level and emotional state are readily transferred to your child. Lower your expectations for the “perfect” Christmas holiday and be prepared to “go with the flow” when your child’s needs call for flexibility. Keep her emotional tank full during the holiday season by scheduling daily one-on-one time to play, read, or do an activity together.

Shorten the Countdown

An extended period of anticipation can feel overwhelming to a young child. Consider waiting until mid-December to begin your holiday decorating or to use an Advent Calendar to track the days until Christmas. To defuse children’s mounting excitement about presents, let them open a few smaller gifts during the countdown to Christmas.

Don’t Make Santa Your December Disciplinarian

The anticipation, bustle of activity, and excessive stimulation during the weeks preceding Christmas already create stress and anxiety for children. Threatening that Santa will bring fewer presents if your child misbehaves only adds to the pressure and worry she feels, and ultimately proves to be an empty threat. Don’t abdicate your essential parenting role of consistently enforcing your rules and limits for appropriate behavior year-round.

Allow Children to Let off Steam

Arrange opportunities for your child to be physically active each day by playing outdoors or visiting an indoor children’s play center.

Schedule Some Quiet Time

Periodically allow your child to retreat and unwind from the excitement of holiday festivities by watching a favorite DVD or playing quietly with arts and crafts or Play-Doh.

Don’t Force Children to Sit on Santa’s Lap

While parents relish the time-honored photo of their youngster happily smiling on Santa’s lap, young children often perceive Santa as strange and scary and may violently recoil at the idea of being held by him. While waiting in line at the mall, show your child exactly what will happen if she chooses to greet Santa. If she is terrorized by the sight of a big stranger in a red suit, respect her emotional distress and show your support by not forcing her to sit on Santa’s lap.

Do you find your children to be a little stressed during the holidays? How do you schedule downtime while still participating in traditions?
Marianne Neifert, M.D., M.T.S., also known as Dr. Mom, is a well-known pediatrician, professional speaker, and author. Visit her web site,

The Why and Ways of Spoiling

In our April issue, we featured the article, "Keep It Fresh! The Dangers of Spoiling Your Children" by Carrie Bevell Partridge. The article has some great advice on breaking the cycle of spoiling, but to help us understand it more fully, here are lists of the WHYS and WAYS we spoil.

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Why You Spoil Your Child

  • Not wanting her to dislike you
  • Fearing tantrums, which will embarrass you
  • Wanting to have a happy child, which makes you look like a “good parent”
  • Wanting to give her things to help her enjoy life
  • Wanting to keep her quiet or to eliminate conflict
  • Being too lazy to discipline
  • Fearing saying “No” to a sick child
  • Having an “I never had … so my kids will have everything” attitude
  • Convenience
  • Wanting her to have what other children have
  • Wanting her to be well-liked or to fit in with peers
  • Wanting to be a “cool” parent
  • Feeling guilty for not spending enough time with her
  • Wanting to build her self-esteem


Ways You Spoil Your Child

  • Always letting her have whatever she wants, whenever she wants
  • Never saying “No” and meaning it
  • Not giving her any experience in working or waiting
  • Not challenging her on thoughts or actions
  • Allowing her to dictate what she will eat at meals
  • Giving her certain items just because “everyone has them”
  • Being her friend instead of her parent
  • Putting her needs ahead of your spouse’s needs on an ongoing basis
  • Continually bailing her out when she gets in trouble, makes poor decisions, or is irresponsible
  • Dropping everything to listen to her when she demands it
  • Allowing her to treat you as her servant

Do you think these are accurate? What would add or take away?

**Remember, this is the last day to enter the March giveaway!

Photo by Tammra McCauley; used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

Dr. Mom on Taming Aggressive Behavior

dr-mom.jpgIn our December 2010 issue of ParentLife, Dr. Mom addressed dealing with aggressive behavior in children (p. 45, "Aggression"). Here are some extra tips from Dr. Mom, Marianne Neifert, M.D., on taming aggressive behavior you may perceive in your children.

  • Provide adequate supervision. Children require structure, supervision, and adult guidance as they learn to make good choices. Closely monitor your children’s behavior and intervene when aggression is being displayed.
  • Limit media exposure to violence. Excessive viewing of television violence, including cartoon violence, and exposure to violent video games can increase childhood aggression. Limit television to 2 hours a day of educational programming and closely monitor your children’s media viewing habits. (Television is not recommended for children under 2 years.)
  • Promote problem-solving. Children without effective problem-solving skills are less able to cope with everyday challenges and are more prone to frustration and aggression. Regular family meetings provide an ideal opportunity for children to hear differing viewpoints and gain practice brainstorming (with parental guidance) possible solutions to family dilemmas.

Have you dealt with aggressive behavior from your children? How do you respond?

Punishment or Discipline?

June_22_preteen.jpg“What did you say?” I asked my almost 12-year-old son. When he admitted his guilt of intentionally using an obscene word, I responded with a small tirade, complete with restrictions from video games, an explanation that God insists we not talk that way, and threats for washing his mouth out with soap if it happened again.

As I stormed off, the thought of “at least he was honest with me” made me pause.  He was honest.  I did not want to squelch that with an excessive reaction.  What I wanted was his understanding that this wasn’t about me, but about God’s direction for his life.  He needed to understand that cursing was a choice against God, not a choice against me.  My son was at a critical point in his life where he was increasingly choosing his own reasons and influences for his behavior.  I wanted him to see God’s Word as a positive source of authority in his life.  If his choices were solely to gain my approval or to avoid punishment, what would motivate him when he was alone?

So breathing a silent prayer, I returned to my son.  I thanked him for being honest with me and reiterated, calmly this time, how it is God’s Word that directs us not to curse.  I explained that using those words can easily become a bad habit, one difficult to break.  I wanted to spare him that by helping him to not even get started.  Therefore, I was going to offer him a choice, and he could decide which one would help him not to talk like that again.  He could be on restriction from video games for 24 hours, or he could learn a verse from the Bible where God says not to talk that way.  He would write the verse and learn it so he could recite it anytime I asked.  He eagerly chose to write the verse rather than give up his video games.  It felt like he’d chosen the easy route, but after he’d memorized it within 36 hours, I wondered just what I had stumbled upon. I had never thought to do this before.  Had God just introduced me to a new discipline technique?

In my own life, when God brings a struggle to my attention, I often do a word study in Scripture or search out related verses and then saturate myself with God’s Word to help me overcome the issue.  Didn’t it make sense to teach my son the same process?  As a teacher, I had always avoided using writing or reading as venues for punishment.  But God helped me see that this process wasn’t about punishment.  It was the training mentioned in Proverbs 22:6.  This was about building a lifelong discipline into my son’s life, not just a momentary punishment for an isolated incident.

When I overheard my son correcting another individual several days later for using some choice words, I knew the process had helped him.  Looking at Scripture, I understood why.  When we read about the armor of God in Ephesians 6, we are introduced to many protective pieces, but only one weapon: “The sword of the spirit, which is God’s Word.”  By committing Ephesians 5:4 to memory, my son had picked up a spiritual weapon against the temptation to speak obscenely again.  And this was a weapon always with him, even when alone.

I also realized that when I instituted excessive consequences as punishment in my desire to eliminate the behavior, I was teaching the wrong motivation and authority.  If my son behaved out of fear-fear of making a mistake, fear of rejection, fear of my wrath-I was actually reinforcing a negative stronghold in his life.  If his behavior was shaped by avoiding punishment, wasn’t his motivation more about serving pleasure and self rather than the Word of God?  If I wanted the Word of God to be the authority in his life, it is important that I follow God’s pattern of correction.  When Jesus confronted the adulterous woman, he did not expend his energies on judging and condemning her actions, but rather providing God’s standard for her to follow.   

This has been a radical change in my approach to raising a preteen.  It is now about discipline rather than punishment; about grace rather than judgment; about the future instead of the past.  It honors his growing need for autonomy, and it makes God’s Word his authority.  I’ve found it important to keep the verses short and very specific.  Using multiple translations helps me find the best wording for the most powerful impact.  It has brought an added bonus in that our entire family learns the scriptures, not just the individual.  Most importantly, it is creating a life-long discipline that will serve my son well for his entire life.  And isn’t that what parenting is supposed to be about?

Sample scriptures for memorizing:

Anger- Ephesians 4:26
Arguing/Complaining- Philippians 2:14
Attitude – Philippians 2:5
Bickering – 1 Thessalonians 5:13
Bragging- Galatians 6:14
Cursing – James 3:10
Greed – 1Timothy 6:8
Grumbling – James 5:9
Laziness/sloppy work – Colossians 3:23
Lying – Colossians 3:9
Obedience – Colossians 3:20
Peer Pressure – Galatians 1:10
Pride – 1 Peter 5:5
Respect – 1 Peter 2:17
Retaliation – 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Juli Lubelczyk is a freelance writer from Elkridge, Maryland, where she lives with her husband and preteen son.  An elementary teacher, she is currently on leave to care for her son who battles mitochondrial disease.