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What to do when your child misbehaves on Christmas Day

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

How to handle horrible behavior during the holidays

The excitement of presents, goodies and visitors (with more presents and goodies) can make even the best-behaved kids go off the deep end. How much leeway should you give your greedy, cranky, whining, not-sharing children before you completely flip out on them?

Before we had kids of our own, my Christmas pet peeve was ungratefulness — that bratty child who tore through all of his gifts, played with nothing and then asked, "What else?" I pledged that my child would never do such a thing... before I realized that "such a thing" was not something parents could always control.

SheKnows Parenting Expert Kat Bouska suggests responding in kind. "My first reaction might be to yell, 'IT COULD BE WORSE!' before throwing the 'World's Best Mom' flashlight key ring that they've picked out for me from their school Santa shop three years in a row!"

Think about it: Our kids are hardly in a position to complain about the gifts they receive. "One year," recalls Bouska, "I received an angel ornament that looked a whole lot like a penis." And kids have the nerve to complain?

The problem with presents, of course, is compounded when you have more than one child. I know one mom who begins buying for Christmas in July and makes absolutely certain that each of her daughters has exactly the same number of gifts worth exactly the same amount of money every year. No small feat.

But when things aren't perfectly equal, will one kid feel like she got the shaft while her sister made out like a bandit? Depending on their age, it's natural for kids to be envious or selfish about a sibling's windfall.

"I've been that kid who sulked at my gifts and I wish I could go back and slap my own self in the face," says Bouska. "Ignoring it was probably the best thing my mom did. A lecture about being spoiled would have made me feel worse and it would have put everyone in a terrible mood on a day that should be spent celebrating.​"

Then there's the company. What can parents do about that kid who's rude or shy with that distant relative who only visits on Christmas?

"Prep your kids for strange relatives by telling them they will earn a dollar for every guest they hug and smile sweetly at," says Bouska, only somewhat jokingly. "I'm not a hugger, so I sort of feel sorry for my kids when Aunt Betsy sweeps them off their feet during the holidays."

Bottom line: Brace yourself for less-than-perfect kids and remember that it's Christmas Day.

More on parenting at Christmas

Christmas crafts and activities for homeschoolers
Christmas treats your kids can make on their own
Tissue paper Christmas ornaments

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