Well, it’s that time we all have that mixture of sweet anticipation often drizzled with a dose of dread. For many of us, the dread is not just about the shopping, the decorating, the parties, and planning…but it’s also about managing the kids. In today’s article, I cover three essentials for getting through the Holidays with more ease and joy.

Three Essential Parenting Tips for Holiday Peace

These three tips are about the basics and making sure you stick to the fundamentals that will bring some structure and sanity to those long days at home with the kids.

1. Abandon Words for Setting Limits. Instead Have an Action Plan.

Whether at home, traveling around the block, across town, or the country, you want your actions to speak louder than your words. Most of us do the opposite. We threaten with lots and lots of words and then take little action. We remind nag, argue, and negotiate relentlessly with little success and much frustration. Too many words!

The Result: Our words have little meaning, and seem to be (mostly) ignored.

The simple solution is to use many fewer words, and take more action WHEN it’s time to set limits. Be willing to remove the goodies when kids are out of control. Be willing to put the whining child in time out, even at grandma’s house. Be willing to send playmates home when behavior gets out of control.

These are only a few examples, but you get the idea. Over the Holiday break, be certain to remember: if you need to set limits, do so NOT with your words more than once, but rather rely upon your actions. Repeated threats or warning only exhausts and frustrates everyone. So instead of these wasted words…

2. Expand the Behavior You Want by Wise Use of Your Attention

We often fail to appreciate and notice the specific behavior and the actions that we want to nurture and grow in our children. This becomes more important when spending extended time together over the holidays as there are more opportunities to grow the behavior you want to see in your home.

Here is what typically happens: Your son is acting up, and you remind him to stop. He is wasting time getting ready, and you prompt him five times to get his socks on. Your daughter is whining about the wait in line, and you continue to tell her to hush while she argues that the line is too long.

Notice the pattern: These are moments we DON’T want more with your children. Yet, they keep giving them lots and lots of our attention, and we expect them to go away.

It doesn’t work like that. Why? Because here is the rule: Whatever you consistently notice, it will expand.

Consistently notice what is wrong, and you will find that more “wrong” with your child’s behavior. It will get worse. In the Holiday break, this can escalate to a level of ‘insanity that could drive you crazy. So, let’s do the opposite.

Instead, start obsessing on the moments you value and cherish. Notice them, with a smile or a touch. Emphasize what you genuinely appreciate, and put your energy there! Every day, wake up and remind yourself to be devoted to smiling or noticing every moment you possibly can if that moment is one you want to expand. The magic begins when we also…

3. Ignore the small stuff (and much of it is the small stuff)!

We give way too much attention to the small, annoying negative behaviors. When we do this, these negative patterns expand over time. The more we give it our attention, the more it will grow. So, what do you do with the negativity, the whining, the arguing, the bickering, and so on?

Follow this guideline: For the small stuff, ignore it. And remember: almost all of it is small stuff. Once you understand that, then focus on getting good at walking away from the little stuff. It will reap huge rewards, although you will likely go through a few days of things getting worse as your kids adjust to your ‘disinterest’ in their negative patterns. Hold the course, as this too will pass.

For the bigger things, set limits with more action and few words, as discussed above. If it’s worthy of action, then take action. Just don’t end up talking about it for five minutes before you do act

For the best of the Holidays with your family, take these three lessons as the basic ‘law.’ If you do so, you may have a few days of adjustment, but in the end, you will have better behavior and a happier family for the duration of the Holidays.