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Sad Christmas

Preteaching: A Key to Holiday Happiness

December 7th, 2017     By Boys Town Contributor

Early Childhood, Family, Parent-Child Relationships, Understanding Behavior

Aww, the holidays!

Decorations, carols, family gatherings, celebrating Christ's birth and the inevitable temper tantrums of children of all ages who didn't get what they wanted for Christmas.

Unfortunately, what is meant to be a joyous season often turns into a Christmas battle between parents and marketers.  Marketers do everything they can to create an "I want!" attitude in children.  That leaves many parents to deal with the no-win decisions of either giving in to their child's every Christmas demand or saying "No" and trying to calm down an angry, disappointed youngster.

But there is a way to keep the holidays peaceful and joyful, while helping your kids learn about gratitude and the importance of giving back.

It's called preteaching, and it's a tool we use every day with the boys and girls in our care at Boys Town. Preteaching simply means teaching a child the appropriate thing to do or say in a certain situation BEFORE the situation happens. This preparation involves teaching a skill and then practicing that skill with your child so he or she can confidently use it at the right time.  

Preteaching comes in handy a lot during the holidays. Here are just a few examples:

  1. When your children receive a gift, teach them to sincerely thank the giver verbally. (Or, have them write a nice thank you note if the giver is not present.)
  1. When they get a gift they didn't want or don't like, teach your children show their appreciation for the giver for thinking about them. (They can still say "Thank you" or write a thank you note.)
  1. As the holidays approach, help your children make a list of gifts they would like to give to others. Then help them buy or make those gifts and wrap them.
  1. When your child gets something new, teach him or her to give something away (a used toy, an article of clothing that is rarely worn) so someone else can enjoy it.
  1. At the family dinner, if your child is offered something he or she doesn't like, make sure he or she knows how to politely say, "No thanks." Or, do some preteaching that encourages your child to try something new this year.
  1. With the holidays being so hectic (late nights, lots of candy and sweets, extra time traveling in the car), let your child know that you expect him or her to still follow your rules; for example, going to bed on time, doing chores, saying grace at mealtimes, asking for treats, etc.) 

Another great way to foster gratitude in your children is to sign up for volunteer and service activities you all can have fun doing together.

At Boys Town, we are very fortunate to have supporters from all over the world, and we make sure our boys and girls recognize the many blessings they receive because of our donors. We do this by involving them in different activities that encourage the spirit of giving back. As part of their Boys Town family, our kids get to ring bells for the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign, volunteer to help with the Special Olympics and raise money to provide holiday meals for the homeless.

We know from experience that taking a little time to prepare kids for the holidays can go a long way toward ensuring that a good time for all (and fewer problem behaviors).   

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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