The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But for many families, this is the most chaotic, conflict-filled and crisis-inducing time of year. This wonderful holiday, when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, is often anything but peaceful in homes with teenagers. The good news is that even with the extra stress and pressure that comes along with the holiday season, you can have Christmas without the conflict. (Yes, it is the season of miracles!)
The key to having a Christmas without conflict is to not forsake good parenting skills. You may be taking off several days from work for the holiday, but you can’t take off from being a parent. So don’t slack off. Focus on maintaining a solid relationship while still honoring your rules, even if your teen calls you “Scrooge” or “Grinch.”
The Power of “Nevertheless”
When a conflict begins, respond by agreeing with your teen in some way, while holding your ground in regard to enforcing the rules. Let me share with you one of my favorite words when it comes to managing conflict; the word is, “nevertheless.”
Sweetheart, I’m aware your friends think this is a great movie, and they may be right, nevertheless…our rule for that is that we don’t go to R-rated movies.
Darlin’, you may have merit for being upset and I’d probably be upset too, nevertheless… our rule is that everyone in our family is required to be respectful of one another, even when we’re angry.
Son, I’m sorry you don’t like the new curfew rule. I didn’t either when I was a teen, nevertheless… our rule is that curfew is midnight.
Handling Christmas conflicts in a more intentional way sends your child the message – “Honey, I love you and I understand why you feel the way you do, but we’re still going to live according to our household rules. If you choose to disregard the rules, consequences will follow.”
Remind Them of Consequences
Rather than leaving your child to wonder about the consequences, those should have been determined and communicated to them in advance. How else can the teen properly choose? They can’t. They need to be able to say to their peers, “If I do that, I’ll lose my car for a month,” or, “If I’m late now, my curfew will be even earlier for a month.”
But you’d be surprised at the number of ways parents avoid enforcing consequences. Make it a rule for yourself, if nothing else — the consequences I’ve communicated to my teen will be enforced, one way or another. Get some outside help with structuring the consequences if you need it. And, always present, a united front with your spouse. Beyond the normal rules and boundaries for curfew and chores and such, there should also be some rules you may not have thought about.
- We MUST Spend Time Together
Your relationship with your teen needs time to develop in a way that moves beyond entertaining them or simply providing for them. Christmas is a great time for building memories and doing things together. But if your kids are spending the entire holiday season at parties, games and functions with their friends, the family relationship will suffer.
Get a calendar and determine in advance what days and times the family will be doing certain activities. This allows your teens the freedom to “fill in” the schedule with other things around the family rather than competing with it. And giving them the freedom to make their choices for the open dates lets them feel an important level of control over their own lives.
- Everyone Listens
Some of the best advice I give dads and moms is encompassed in a simple mandate: Keep Quiet! Instead of always nagging, correcting, cajoling, or critiquing – just be quiet. Look for opportunities to lead into a discussion where you can ask your teen to explain their point of view, their solution to a problem, or how they arrived at a conclusion, then allow them to talk. Don’t try to correct their thinking – just let them talk.
Some parents just need to zip it. They need to turn the table and allow their teen to ask questions for a change. Teenagers today need to know someone will truly listen to them and not judge them for what is said. So sharpen your own listening habits, and your teens may grow as well. The point is, make your home a place where everyone listens and enforce it as a rule.
- Lighten Up! That’s an Order!
Some families need to learn to laugh together as much or more than anything else. Christmas can be a great time for fun. Making cookies or gingerbread houses isn’t just for little kids. Watching Dad’s elaborate construction fall apart or Mom “decorating” by putting frosting on his nose are things that open doors to more than just immediate laughter…they create an atmosphere your kids will want to be in.
Parents today take themselves and their teens way too seriously, at times. Let your kids see just how goofy you can really become, and make it a goal to make someone in your family laugh every day. Bring some fun things into your home, be impetuous, and smile a little more.
A Relationship That Doesn’t Stop
Your teen needs the kind of relationship that doesn’t stop even if they overstep the boundaries (and there will be times when they do). At all times, keep reminding your teen: “There’s nothing you can do to make me love you less, and nothing you can do to make me love you more. In other words, to do something wrong won’t end our relationship. I will love you just the same regardless of your actions, but that doesn’t mean I won’t enforce consequences for breaking the rules.”
What your child wants more than anything else is to have more freedom, while also having a solid relationship with you. If you plan the events of the Christmas season, they will be able to experience the benefits of freedom without destroying the beauty of “peace on earth.”
May your home be filled with peace, laughter, joy and love. Merry Christmas!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas. He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids. He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.
His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.org. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.
Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Here you can download the Parenting Today’s Teens App, a great way to listen on your schedule.