Hubby and I have started a new tradition this year since our girls are getting older. We are now having Christmas Eve Day individual Mommy/Daddy dates with the girls.

This year, the girls were not handling the stress of holidays very well – we’ve gotten a LOT of short-tempered attitudes, sass, and flat out rudeness. Toddler behavior in a young teen body. Frankly, everything we’ve been dealing with since our move in June, but upped a notch. Time-Out breaks, lectures, whatever, nothing has worked.

And at our complete wit’s end, we decided to take the opposite approach, trying to apply something that I read long ago in “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” Which is to look for the heart reason behind the behavior and focusing on that. (my paraphrase)

I knew they were picking up on the stress hubby and I are dealing with here the past few months. I knew they were dealing with the beginnings of preteen hormonal craziness and not understanding how to process those emotions. And what makes kids act out? Often, the need for attention. So, we tried to give them this individual attention and time today.

It wasn’t about spending a ton of money, (let’s face it, we don’t have it anyway), but to pour our love into them as much as we can. To show them God’s love as mercy – forgiving them for their behavior without condoning, but also to try and model for them a new way.

What did this end up looking like for us? My oldest and I dropped some bags to donate at the thrift store, and then we went inside to look around and shop/play a bit. We went over to Target and grabbed one or two things and grabbed hot chocolate/coffee at the Starbucks inside. That is how easy it was

I noticed results instantly, even before we left the house. Our oldest’s defiant ‘Tude began to melt, I got some real conversation, and her sweet spirit began to re-emerge. My youngest also has some good bonding time with her dad that afternoon as well – picking up our Christmas Eve meal, and stopping for lunch together.

So, remember, if you are feeling any sort of stress, your kids are most likely picking up on that and feeling it too. And oftentimes, when you feel them pushing you away with their behavior and acting “unloveable” that is often the exact moment they need you to pull them closer and love on them more.