You hear sounds of unpleasantness coming from the next room. Ahh Thanksgiving. The children have been excused to go play. You enter the living room to see your daughter and her cousin engaged in a tug-of-war over a toy tractor. You hesitate before stepping in.

Should you correct both of their behaviors as you normally would with just your daughter? Should you only talk to your child? Should you simply take the toy away? Should you go find your brother-in-law and talk it over with him? Hmm… Sounds like a holiday conundrum.

While holidays often bring cheer, they can be the cause of family stress and strife as well. Before the fun begins, you might want to set up some ground rules (if not for others than for yourself) that will establish boundaries for your conduct and expectations of your kids, other kids and the adults in your family.

  1. Take an honest reading of your willingness to bend the rules on usual bedtimes, levels of acceptable noise, messiness of toys, etc. If you have made up your mind beforehand that you will be less concerned if the usual routines are changed, then if they are changed, by circumstance or intervening relatives, you will hopefully be less perturbed. 

  2. If “wiggle room” isn’t your thing or you think that your child might be negatively affected by drastic changes in the routine, then it might behoove you to share your child related plans with extended family. If you’re honest and specific with your family about not wanting your child to be stuffed full of sugar or not wanting rowdy play in the house, then the adults will have a heads up. Now you can hope that they do what you’ve asked or you will have a way of gently reminding them rather than becoming frustrated because they were unaware of your expectations.

  3. If you know that this won’t fly with all the members of your family, enlist some to help you with whatever kid-centered goals you’d like to achieve. If your mother-in-law is usually amenable, then ask her if she would help make sure that kid conflicts are dealt with appropriately and that your little brother isn’t swearing when the kids are around. Also discuss your expectations of your own children’s behavior with your children. They can be your best allies if they know your rules and how they should behave.

  4. Think about where the holiday is being held. If you’re hosting, then you could easily regulate other children’s behavior by stating that they will be held to the rules of the house, just like your own children are. If you are not hosting and you think that your stepping in to correct another’s child might be seen as interference, then only correct your own child. Remove them from the situation if necessary. 

Has something else worked for you? Taking turns being on kid duty? Setting aside a place where all of the kids can be messy, loud and rambunctious? There are no absolute or easy fixes for the problems that sometimes arise when families get together, but I hope that these suggestions will prove useful in the merry months ahead.

Katie Robinson began her foray into behavior management long before she knew what it was called. Growing up with a younger brother with special behavioral and emotional needs was her first taste of the hard work that it takes to be successful at managing behaviors. A career that spans teaching middle school special needs students and social work, Katie’s diverse experiences have led her to her newest venture: BW Kids Consulting. BW Kids Consulting affords Katie a ‘Supernanny’ style adventure of working with parents to help them help their kids to be their best selves. Check out her blog, Kid Whisperer!