We’re comfortable knowing we’ll break a few of our hard-and-fast parenting rules at some point over the holidays (yes, those are our kids enjoying gingerbread cookies before breakfast and yes, those same kids will be granted extended screen-time to keep us all sane during the long drive to Nana’s house). However, when it comes to the proper conduct of our children—and ourselves—we have a few golden rules we adhere to without fail this time of year.
Do: Be realistic
Unless you’ve been channeling Emily Post for months, few kids will correctly remember a long list of well-mannered behaviours. Instead, focus on what matters most to you. Remind kids to offer handshakes when guests arrive, always say ‘thank you’ for any gift (even when it’s not what they wanted), look people in the eye when speaking to them, and share toys with visiting friends and family.
Don’t: Sabotage the season
We know our kids. Some toddlers can stay up until midnight and fare well; some teens are tormented by the idea of being offline for over five minutes. Don’t fill your calendars to the point where everyone gets extended way beyond their comfort zones. Allow for periods of sleeping in, checking in and checking out—you’ll be cheered by how agreeable everyone is.
Do: Practise what you preach
The good (and challenging) part of being a parent is knowing our kids are highly impressionable sponges who soak up everything we say or do. So if we’re teaching kids patience, tolerance and kindness, flipping off the driver who just stole your parking spot is going to dilute your message. Model the mantra of keeping calm and soldiering on this season.
Don’t: Take the bait
We love our extended family members, but there’s a reason we don’t all live together (besides the logistical issues of sharing one bathroom). Spending time in close quarters can be rewarding, but it can also highlight annoying habits and pre-existing frustrations. Focus on the positive—even if that leaves you (silently) counting down the minutes until you can hit the road.
Do: Empower kids with tasks
We know our kids love to help, whether it’s decorating the house, taking a turn as sous chef or Christmas shopping for others. Don’t be shy about praising them publically afterwards. And no matter how much you want to re-set the scattered way they set the silverware, wait until they’ve left the room.
Don’t: Make a footwear gaff
The great shoe debate (is it polite to ask guests to remove their shoes?) goes on and on, but the bottom line is that if your hostess appears to be holding firm on the no-footwear preference, pop off your shoes and parade in proudly with stocking feet (no one is going to believe you just happened to miss the other 30 pairs at the door anyway).
Do: Bring a hostess gift
It doesn’t need to be expensive, trendy or over-the-top, but even if your sister-in-law insists you bring nothing, or your mother says she has it all under control, bring something thoughtful—edible or otherwise—to say thanks for having your crew of two, four, six or more over for some holiday cheer.
Don’t: Be tormented about tipping
Somewhere along the way, holiday tipping became an expectation as opposed to an expression of gratitude for good service, which can be off-putting for even the most generous. For those special people in your life (the babysitter, teacher, house cleaner or the trainer who helped you hit 40 looking fabulous), trust that a monetary expression of your thanks will likely be received with appreciation rather than expectation.
Looking for more tips to help keep the holidays happy? We’ve got 101 Ways to Be a Holiday Hero.
Image of thank you from Shutterstock