Three-year-old Andrew vigorously romped with cousins and wrestled with Grandpa as he eagerly anticipated Santa's arrival. For him, the long wait to Christmas morning was cruel. His family get-togethers brought irregular naps, extra sweets, incomplete meals, and lots of action, but Andrew kept pace with the festivities. One evening his Mom made the usual statement to "get ready for bed." The normally agreeable lad clenched his teeth and fiercely protested, "I'm not tired!" To prove her wrong, he played more energetically. After Mom's repeated attempts, Dad jumped into the fray with, "Andrew, bedtime!" Andrew exploded in unusual defiance by falling to the floor kicking and screaming. Shocked by this behavior, his parents hovered over him in open-mouthed disbelief.
Elsewhere, nine-year-old Laura was the star in the Children's Christmas Musical. Each day after school she'd rush through homework, a fast food supper, song memorization, and go on to rehearsal. As the weeks passed, easygoing Laura became agitated. She bickered with friends, easily cried, and often whined, "Nobody likes me!" She complained of frequent headaches, forgot the words to her songs, and started stalling when it was time to go to practice.
Sound familiar? Should these children be punished or have privileges removed? Do these kids need discipline? Quite simply, in these cases, children just need less stress. And there are millions of families who experience similar situations at this time of year—children are so sensitive to the busy holiday bustle. Perhaps no other month brings more angst than December.
Everyone knows that kids act unpleasant and annoying at times. Skillful parents realize that the behavior isn't always a need for punishment; sometimes it's a cry for help. Normal, daily pressures are expected, but excessive pressure and stress can produce peculiar behavior, may affect a child's developing brain, and contribute to later health problems. Parents who understand this and relieve undue stress have a happier, healthier, more agreeable child—even during the holidays.
How can you tell when your child's behavior is stress connected? What are the signs? The answer lies in increased behaviors such as:
- hyperactivity or over-sensitivity
- complaints of stomachaches
The frequency of the behavior indicates the degree of stress your child feels.