Parenting Tips | Managing behaviour without idle threats

thinkstockangrykid-300x200It’s just over 40 days to Christmas. Chances are Santa has already been mentioned in your house. But is this because you are using Santa as a tool, warning children that they must behave now or they won’t get any presents on Christmas morning? Threatening children that Santa won’t come is possibly the greatest idle threat used by parents. You should not revert to this idle threat now that we are in November. Likewise, you shouldn’t use a child’s upcoming birthday as a reason to bribe or threaten them, nor should other annual events like Easter or Halloween be used in this way. Implement the parenting tools you know and use them for all 12 months of the year.

Here are some tips on managing behaviour between now and Christmas, without using the threat of “Santa won’t come!”:

  1. Focus on what you know about your children. They like routines and consistency. The first lesson in parenting? Stick to the routine.
  2. When children start to misbehave, the first step in dealing with the issue is to check that their basic needs are being bet. Ensure they have been fed, that they are warm, comfortable and not in need of sleep or feeling unwell. Remember that when us adults are hungry, tired, cold or unwell, it is very difficult for us to manage our behaviour.
  3. Recognise how your child responds to your actions. Some children know by one look that they need to stop misbehaving. Others know that they will get numerous chances. Some children will hear the tone of voice change while others will hear the loud shout up the stairs. Others will know their parent means business when they take them by the hand and remove them from a situation. Every child knows what their parent will do in any given situation and they expect this to happen. When we are not consistent in our approach, children are left confused and they also learn they can push boundaries.
  4. At times we can just get tired. It may seem easier to make an idle threat than to follow through with action. Life is challenging and there is a lot that can leave us tired and distracted; having the energy to parent is not always forthcoming. We have to dig deep at times.
  5. The more you threaten, usually the more anxious children become and consequently behaviour decreases even further. Research has reported that children are showing more and more signs of anxiety and depression.
  6. This year, leave the threats aside and instead develop traditions of preparation for Christmas. Look forward to the time-off work and school that you can spend together. If we stop using occasions (like birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, or Easter) to threaten children then we could really embrace them and enjoy the excitement such times can bring. We could plan for occasions and prepare and develop traditions around them, making the occasion wholly positive for everyone.
  7. Remember that Santa is meant to be a fairytale of innocence and magic. We don’t need Santa to support us when it comes to managing behaviour but we can enjoy the magic he will create on Christmas and the memories that will be made.

This article is part of our weekly parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.

For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email

One Family Winter Party

Our annual Winter Party for current clients and their children took place yesterday in the beautiful Dublin Castle. It was great fun with almost 100 children and their families enthralled by master magician, Brian Daly.  Little faces were painted by our creative staff team; and all kinds of amazing balloon animals and toys created by Cathyrn Alexander. And when Santa arrived there was even more excitement!

Santa had help to fill the One Family Grotto this year with hundreds of toys and gifts collected by the staff of these generous companies to whom we, and Santa and Mrs Claus, are incredibly grateful:

Google: Thank you to Lorna Mellon and Sinéad Gibney and all the Googlers.

Chartered AccountantsThank you to Gillian Duffy and all the Chartered Accountants team.

Capita Life Pensions: Thank you to Deirdre Lennon and all the Capital Life Pensions team.

HRM Recruit: Thank you to Kasia Bik and all the HRM Recruit team.

Maples and CalderThank you to Yvonne Madden and all the Maples and Calder team.

A & L GoodbodyThank you to Sinéad Smith and all the A & L Goodbody team.

Trinity Access Programme Foundation: Thank you to Sarah Grimson and all of the students.

We are also very grateful to everyone who donated prizes for the parents’ raffle including Jinny Joe’s Baby Massage and Yoga, Tesco Jervis Centre and to Kenna’s Centra, Laurel Lodge who donated goody bags for the children.

Huge thanks to volunteers Cathryn Alexander for ballon modelling and face painting, to Paul Leamy for assisting Santa, and to all One Family staff and volunteers.

Thank you also to Darren Lennox and the Operations team at Dublin Castle Conference Centre for their help in co-ordinating such a wonderful event.

Lastly, thank you to all the children and their families for joining us for the festivities!