Parenting Fails: 7 Ways to Make the Holidays Miserable

The stress of the holidays can have parents in a tinseled tizzy, but if you stick to some key priorities and avoid sweating the small stuff, you can upgrade your seasons greetings from feverish festivities to family-centered fun. Sidestep these common stumbling blocks and you'll be making happy holiday memories in no time.

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By Jae Curtis

When you have children, a ton of merrymaking can make for a ton of meltdowns—for parents and kids alike. And stressed, fatigued, overworked parents usually make the situation worse when they commit classic parenting fails that turn "Deck the Halls" into a chorus of "Go to your room!" Read on to figure out where you're going wrong, and you can quickly nip those blunders in the bud to actually, you know, enjoy the holidays with your family.

Taking On Too Much

So you want to bring treats to your child's class while sewing your own stockings and shopping for your entire family, but in the end, something's gotta give. You're stuck with a to-do list that leaves little time for you to kick back and enjoy the season. Genius coping tool? Delegate some of your responsibilities to your little one. Nothing makes a kid feel more important than being needed as part of the team, adolescent psychologist Fran Walfish notes. "Let her set the table or allow him to bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen. Find ways to engage your kids, teaching responsibility and building their self-esteem with the pride of accomplishment." As an added bonus, you'll lighten your own load too.


Finding the perfect present gives you a department store rush, so it's understandable that you love grabbing gifts for your adorable kids. But from keeping track of your kids' gifts to wrapping them all and then making peace with your bank account later, going overboard in the gift department can make your holidays way too hectic. Instead, set a goal for each child ahead of time and stick to that number. Then, learn to be strong in the face of a good sale. Does your child really need another stuffed animal?

Overloading Your Schedule

If your calendar is about as decorated as a Christmas tree, you might have an issue with overscheduling yourself. Constantly shuffling tired, cranky kids from party to party and expecting that they be on their best behavior is a recipe for a total tantrum. Instead of saying "yes" to everything, pick a few things that really matter and decline the rest. Then, make sure you plan some downtime for your little ones. If they had to be on their best behavior at Grandma's, take them to the indoor playground to help release some of those pent-up wiggles.

Skipping Traditions

Sure, missing out on the Advent calendar one year might not seem like a huge deal to you, but when your kids look forward to it for 11 months of the year, it could be devastating. Think carefully before you cut a long-held tradition from the to-do list. Instead of doing away with it altogether to save on stress, consider a pared-down version. No, you don't have time to make a Christmas cookie Advent calendar, but your kids might be just as happy with the cheap chocolate ones from the drugstore instead.

Not Prepping Your Kids

Kids say—scream, yell, cry—the darndest things, especially at choice moments, like a serene Hanukkah dinner. As a parent, you know your kids well enough to know when you might veer into the danger zone. Parenting expert Meg Akabas recommends a little prep work to avoid a red-faced moment. "Before any holiday event, think about what scenarios you will need to review," she suggests. "Try, 'What should you do if you are served food that you don't like?' Or, 'Let's go over what you do when someone gives you a present.'"

Wanting Perfection

When your dreams of a family tree-trimming are shattered by kids who fight and lights that don't work, it's hard to reconcile with your feelings of the perfect holiday. Walfish warns against counting on a perfect, planned holiday scenario. "Watch out for any personal wish to make the holidays a 'perfect, magical time,'" she says. You will be setting yourself up for a huge letdown. The more relaxed and flexible you are, the more calm and happy your child will be. Instead, plan for and around hiccups so your children aren't high-strung with your unrealistic expectations.

Not Laughing

You probably wonder why Santa is so jolly—um, does he know how much work the holidays are? He might have elves to do his bidding, but parents are stuck with a messy house and all their helpers napping with full bellies or playing with new toys. If you can't step back and laugh at yourself and your family once in a while, you might as well just cancel the holidays altogether. When you feel your blood starting to boil, ask yourself if it really matters. A broken ornament here, a sibling argument there—a little laughter goes a long way in avoiding further parenting fails to make the holidays bearable.

Some parents check off their crazy to-do lists like it's a rite of holiday passage, but you don't need to spend the month of December in a perpetual state of chaos. By simplifying in a big way and taking a "Do I really need this?" approach to all holiday activities, you can dwell on what's really important this holiday season: your family ... and chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

Need some games for your kids to shake off all that holiday stress? Check out these 10 indoor activities to break up the holiday rush.

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