Q: I want to build Christmas traditions with our kids, but my husband doesn't think it's a big deal. He finds it all too sentimental. What are your thoughts?
Jim: Take it from someone who didn't have many happy memories growing up due to the general instability of my family: Traditions are important!
Maybe it's picking out a Christmas tree, arranging a nativity scene, decorating the house or baking gingerbread cookies. When family members engage in these activities, it's a time of connection with one another that marks the moment. Collectively, these moments become memories we carry into our future. Years from now, the smell of certain foods or the sound of a favorite song will bring to mind special memories from our past and the important people who filled them.
Traditions connect us with our heritage as well. When young kids spend time with their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, it's an opportunity for them to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. It links them with their family history. Traditions also have the ability to bring a sweetness to the memory of loved ones we've lost over the years. Their presence lives on in the traditions we enjoyed with them.
I hope your husband will reconsider his position -- for your kids' sake, especially. The blessings that Christmas traditions create will bring joy to your family for generations to come.
Q: My strong-willed child is always a handful, but especially at bedtime. The excitement of the Christmas season has only amplified this problem. He refuses to stay in bed! What can we do?
Leon Wirth, executive director of Parenting and Youth: Bedtime battles are not unusual when there's a strong-willed child in the house. The remedy is the same as that for any conflict with a strong-willed child: firm, loving and persevering discipline.
Success depends on establishing clear expectations and meaningful consequences, and applying them consistently. Be sure to discuss these consequences ahead of time. Your son should understand clearly what is and isn't acceptable before he's held accountable.
Begin by saying something like, "We all have things we must do in our home to live well together. My job tonight is to see you get the rest you need. Your job tonight is to stay in bed and go to sleep." Let him know that if he doesn't obey, he'll have unpleasant consequences. This could involve the removal of a privilege in his bedtime routine. If his door is usually open or a nightlight is left on, perhaps the door will be closed and the light extinguished if he gets up.
After putting him to bed, be prepared to intercept him immediately. If he gets up, take him back to bed and sit quietly with him. Talk calmly and firmly about the importance of staying put. Say, "What we need right now is for you to stay in bed. What do you think we can do to make that happen?" If he gets up again, repeat the process. Be firm, but not angry or exasperated. Stay within the boundaries you established.
Your goal, and the key to success, is to outlast your child, no matter how long it takes. It's a matter of simple endurance. Once the battle has been won, the child will usually live within the parameters established. If it is lost, the next conflict will be even harder to resolve.
Don't forget to pay attention to the positive side of the ledger, too. It's important to "catch" your son being good. When he has a good night, encourage him and praise him for his accomplishment.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.