Thanksgiving Dinner can be a nail-biting event for mothers of small children. Will the kids behave? Will they eat all their food? Will they tell all your secrets? Will you have to leave early due to any of the above?
Since I’ve eaten my fair share of Thanksgiving Dinners (4 the first year I was married!) and since I have children, none of which I have eaten, I will now pretend to be an expert on the matter of bringing children and holiday dinners into blissful harmony.
1. Give your kids “the lecture.” You know the one:
Today we are going to Auntie Susie’s house and if any of you act like baboons, you’ll get 10 spankings and no food.
OK, maybe not THAT lecture, but one that goes along the lines of:
Today we are going to Auntie Susie’s house. I expect you to behave like respectable young ladies and gentlemen. You are representing our family and the family of God. Because of this, please consider all you say and do while there.
Keep it short and sweet and to the point, lest their eyes glass over.
2. Lay out expectations. It isn’t always enough to just give “the lecture.” Quite often you need to fully flesh out what is expected of them while you are visiting. Let them know what rooms are off limits. Let them know where they can go to play. Let them know what you consider to be proper and improper behavior. Don’t expect them to read your mind.
3. Let them nibble prior to dinner. It’s okay.
4. Make a dish you know your children like. That way you know there is at least one thing they will like, avoiding the totally embarrassing scene in which your child blurts out, “Why are you making me eat all this yucky food?” Also, refer back to #2.
5. Be prepared to discipline. Have in mind what you will do when a situation arises…because it will…despite “the lecture.”
6. Include activities that will be enjoyed by your children. Do not expect your children to amuse themselves while you spend the afternoon chit-chatting and napping. Unless, of course, you don’t mind them sliding down the banisters and drawing pictures in the pumpkin pie with their fingers. I am so thankful for my aunt Kathy who is fabulous at remembering the little ones. One year it was a butterfly game that kept my kids (and her granddaughter) busy for hours!
7. Don’t tell everyone how naughty your kids are or try to excuse (and do nothing about) their behavior as linked to them being tired. Sorry, these are two of my pet peeves. First off, what you believe about your children will often come to fruition. If you tell everyone they are naughty you might as well forget having well-behaved children. Even if they didn’t hear you (which isn’t likely considering little ears somehow manage to hear everything they aren’t supposed to hear), your attitude alone will mark them in other’s minds as well as your own. I know you think you are just warning people of the potential for your child to act less than perfect during the day, but you would do better to tell them how well behaved your child is and then act surprised when they do something childish. Just sayin’.
And secondly, if your child is tired, find a way to get them a nap rather than blame all their misbehavior on sleepiness. Yes, children do misbehave when tired. Yes, you have the right to inform everyone that little Timmy didn’t get his nap today. But to simply say Timmy is tired and then do nothing about either the misbehavior or the tiredness is just cruel. However, I do have a theory that goes along with this…perhaps Timmy isn’t really tired. Perhaps Timmy is just misbehaving. ;)