Defrag Your Family, Bring Back the Joy!

by Christie Clarke

Holidays can be stressful - even in the best of families. With just a few minor adjustments, you'll make the memories ones that everyone reflects upon happily for years to come. Make it - and keep it - a family affair that allows everyone to experience the gift of joy. Work with your children to create a place they want to come home to when they have children of their own!

Share control

By sharing the control with your children, you regain yours. Give them plenty of choices—all of which would make you deliriously happy. “Do you want to help decorate the tree, wrap your sister’s gift, finish loading the dishwasher, or plan the dinner menu?”

Eliminate orders

If you want to look and feel weak, just get into a power struggle over what you want done. Give commands; make threats...especially those on which you can’t (won’t) follow through. “If you don’t get this done in five minutes you can’t come shopping with us!”

Make enforceable statements

“My car is leaving for the mall at 5pm. I sure hope you’ll be going with us,” is infinitely more effective than “Why aren’t you dressed?! If you’re not ready on time, you’re going to make me late again!” Telling a child (or anyone) what they’re going to do, never brings good results.

Ask Questions

Questions are an amazing “defuser” of conflict. “Do you think you’ll have your room ready for Santa in 10 minutes or 15?” give a child nothing to contest. “Did you know why I usually wear a hat when I go outside?” beats “You’ll catch your death of cold if you go out without a hat in this weather!”

Use empathy

It opens the heart and mind to understanding. If dialogue begins with a child’s feeling understood, harmony stands a chance. “Wow, I’ll bet you really would like to have that I-pod that all your friends are getting. I sure wish we could afford it,” is much more effective than, “Do you think I’m made of money?!”

Avoid arguments

Don’t take the bait. You have the ability to control the situation if you take the time to think. Saying, “We’ll talk later...after I’ve thought about this” is more effective than yelling, “That’s it! You’re grounded until the New Year!”

Be firm, consistent, loving

When it feels like a line needs to be drawn in the sand, simply and calmly state your point, then answer all challenges with, “I love you too much to argue.” For variety there’s the ever popular, “I know” (delivered with drama and empathy). This old favorite squelches that perennial triad: It’s not fair. That’s stupid. Nobody else has to.

Cultivate respect

Have it for yourself. “I’d love to help you with that problem now, but I need a few minutes to finish what I’m doing here first.” Have it for your children. “I understand how it feels to be rushed all the time. How can we plan ahead for this event?”

“Stop, look, and listen” is not just for safety’s sake when crossing the train tracks. Let it be your new mantra for the holidays.

  • STOP running around (or at least slow down). Without our even being aware of it, the world can entice us to participate in a frantic race right through this precious season.
  • LOOK — really look — at those around you. They love and need you (that kinder, gentler “you”). See the impact your behavior is having on them — either for better or worse.
  • LISTEN to what they’re saying. Even if the words are unspoken, they may be asking for reassurance that you love them just as they are, no matter who they're hanging out with, what they’re wearing or listening to, when (if) they’re cleaning their room or coming home at night.

So if you don’t want to have the feeling that you’ve been hit by a locomotive this holiday season, apply these simple rules, get back on track, and give the gift that really does keep on giving...the gift of joy!




  • We Believe:
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