How to Create Holiday Rituals that Build Your Child’s Confidence and Teach Skills

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI remember handing out presents to my relatives on Christmas Day when I was a child. Before I could read the names on the gift tags, my aunts would reach under the tree, hand me a wrapped box. “Take this gift to Uncle Jerry,” they’d say. I’d step over legs sprawled out in my grandmother’s living room  and deliver Uncle Jerry’s present to him. Of course, he’d say “Thank you,” then I’d make my way back to the Christmas tree knowing that one aunt or the other would have another gift for me to deliver to a different relative. As more cousins were born (I was the oldest cousin), they too joined in on delivering gifts to recipients every Christmas Day.

Looking Back as a Parent – An Opportunity for Confidence Building

I didn’t know it then, but now I know that my aunts (there are three of them) were promoting healthy and affirming beliefs inside of me. They trusted me with the task of carrying presents to my family members. By asking me to help, they demonstrated that they had faith in me – they indirectly communicated to me that I could handle the job. Imagine how this belief inside myself was reinforced each December. This small task repeated over and over again strengthened my bonds with my family and strengthened my self-confidence.

Offering Opportunities for Children to Contribute

The holidays are about giving presents to children. Most would agree. But we can give children even more than monetary presents. Last week, I shared on facebook another gift giving ritual that I helped my kids complete. From the time my kids were in elementary school, I provided the opportunity for my children to make gifts for their grandparents and aunt. I wanted my kids to experience gift giving as well as gift receiving.

I remember one year when my son was three or four years old, he and I baked Christmas cookies together. baking with frameThe next day was trash day at our house and I decided that we could share some of the cookies with our trash collectors. I packed the cookies in a bag, attached a big note and sat the bag on top of our trash can by the street. My son and I listened for the roar of the truck to near and when it did, we parked ourselves at the front window to watch. We wondered if our bag would be mistaken for trash too, sitting up on top of the trash and all. So we waited to see what would happen. The trash collector picked up the bag, studied at the note, smiled and look up at my son and me. We smiled and waved. The man smiled and waved back.

Now I’ll bring this full circle back to my grandmother’s house. As an adult, I still go there every other Christmas – of course, my kids are with me too. (My grandmother passed away just this past year at the age of 97!) Before we leave our own house, I ask my kids to carry presents out to the car for the trip and once we arrive (an hour and a half later,) I hand food for Christmas dinner or presents from the car to my children to carry into my grandmother’s house. My kids are teenagers now, but when they were younger, they were also given the task of handing out presents to relatives at my grandmother’s house.

What Internal Gifts Can We Give Children?

Imagine you’re a child. Your parent or another trusted adult asks you to help and directly or indirectly expresses that he or she has faith in you to complete the task. What messages are you receiving from the world about your capability? What messages are you possibly thinking about yourself – about your capability?

Often we adult express love to children by pampering them and making their lives as fun and easy as possible. Consider that love can also be expressed by showing faith in children – faith that they can handle simple responsibilities – small messages that even as children, they have something to offer the world (in addition to acting and looking adorable.) To me, these gifts are the ones that kids will remember fondly. I can only remember a few of the actual presents I opened from relatives during my childhood. I definitely remember the feelings I experienced at my grandmother’s house every Christmas for the first twenty-four years of my life. My sense of family, inclusion and and contribution are the consistent thread in my memories of childhood holidays.

What will you do to express faith in your child’s capabilities this holiday season?

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You Might Have Reached Mommy Burnout if . . .

Mommy Burn outHow do you know when you’ve reached the burnout point? It’s different for each parent, but check out this list for similar signs.

Signs of Mommy Burnout

You might have reached mommy burnout if . . .

  • A mini-fridge for your mini-van is at the top of your holiday wish list. (This means you spend more time in your car than in your house. You’re constantly driving kids around to appointments, athletic practice, lessons, etc.)
  • The drive through attendant at a fast food restaurant asks how your mom’s surgery went. (Unless your cousin works at McDonald’s, it’s not a good sign if you’re on a first name basis with the person on the other side of the drive through window.  This means that you’re using the drive through to feed your family more often than you prepare food at home.)
  • You check the flight and bus departure schedules for your area more than once a month. (You’re looking for a fast escape on a routine basis.  Most moms dream of running away at times, but if you often feel trapped by your parent responsibilities, you might have reached the stage of burnout.)

Your personal symptoms may look different, but you get the idea. If you feel a sense of desperation more days than not, then you’re probably experiencing a condition than is running rampant throughout the industrialized culture – parental burnout. This ailment has also been labeled as supermom syndrome, overparenting and HPE (helicopter parenting exhaustion.)

I’ve experienced the symptoms of parent exhaustion first hand. Hey, I’m a parent educator. It’s my job to know and practice great parenting skills and see the results. Because I’m constantly looking at parenting practices, reading parenting books and teaching best practices for parenting, I tend to put parenting in a serious light and try to do my best.

The Long Term Effects of Supermom Syndrome and Overparenting

Achieving super parentingdom seems like a great goal, that is – until you experience the side effects. To be on-call 24/7 is physically and emotionally exhausting. Doctors aren’t on-call all month long. Pilots are restricted on flying hours to prevent fatigue. But good moms just keep going. Like the Energizer Bunny, there’s something powerful inside of us, driving us to bang the drum each day sounding the rhythm of bath, story and bedtime, of school meetings, athletic practice and laundry.

But the truth is that all batteries run out of energy. Without a recharge, batteries are useless at some point. If you’re not recharging, you’ll notice that you’re moving slower and slower each day. The long term effects of not recharging are

  • feelings of resentment
  • depression or a sense of hopelessness
  • lack of sex drive
  • loss of sense of self
  • grouchy momma all month long

Why Good Parents Get Burned Out

If you’re burned out, it means that you care a lot about your kids. It means that you take accountability seriously. Good parents are the ones who get burned out. So if your maternal battery is extra low, pat yourself on the back. You’ve been working hard.

Now, cut yourself some slack. You don’t have to be a perfect parent – just a good one. It’s okay to lower your standards a little bit if those standards are unachievable in the first place. Are you possibly expecting to reach a goal that isn’t humanly possible to master? Remember, you have needs too. If you continue to give your all to your kids, there will be none left for you and your battery won’t supply energy anymore.

Take Time to Recharge Your Battery

Thankfully, your internal batteries are the rechargeable kind. Many things will breathe new life into you. “Oh, yeah?” you say. I know, I know.  You’ve forgotten what your needs are and about the things that get you energized. You’ve been paying so much attention to the needs of others, you’re out of touch with the fact that you have needs.

Take a Baby Step Towards Self-Care

Many moms reach a point where they don’t even know what they’d do for themselves if they had time. That’s why most moms have to do a little internal discovery. What will recharge you now? Are they the same things that energized you before you became a mom?

Becoming a mother changes us. We may like to do some of the things we did before our material instincts developed, but we also may be looking for new ideas that better fit with who we are now. I’ve struggled with this exact issue and had to learn through trial and error what things really gave me a positive charge and what things didn’t.

I’m a  parent educator, a Positive Discipline Lead Trainer and I’ve experienced full burnout status. It’s taken me a while to get good at self-care and I’m hoping to help you acquire this skill faster than I did. I’d love to help you discover what will work for you – what will recharge your batteries.

I’ve created some activities to help parents rediscover exactly what fuels them and to nudge parents to think in broader terms about nurturing themselves. I put these activities into an eworkbook called The Self-Care Starter Kit for Parents Who Do Too Much. I created this eworkbook especially for good parents who are devoted to their kids, but sometimes forget that their own batteries need energy too. Are you one of those parents?

The Self-Care Starter Kit for Parents Who Do Too Much

©2012 Kelly Pfeiffer

©2012 Kelly Pfeiffer

Do you need some recharge? Is your battery level super low? Would you like to start with a small step? Again, I’d love to help you. I want you to become a calmer parent, a happier parent and a more balanced parent. We all need cheerleaders and I’d like to be one of yours.

I know it may not be easy to take that first step towards nurturing yourself. The thought of taking care of you in any small way may trigger feelings of bad parenting, instead of good parenting. I hope I’ll be able to change your mind about that and help you get clear on the fact that in order to have a surplus of energy to give your kids, you have to give back to yourself. Are you seeing the connection yet?

I wish I had learned some self-care tools sooner than I did. I wish someone had nudged me a little more about the need for nurturing myself. My kids are now teenagers and I wish I’d put myself on my to-do list more often than I did when my kids were younger. 

-Kelly Pfeiffer

Certified Positive Discipline Trainer

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Self-Care Starter Kit for Parents Who Do Too Much – Comments Page


©Kelly Pfeiffer

This page is dedicated to comments from parents who have finished the Self-Care Starter Kit for Parents Who Do Too Much.

To parents who have worked through the kit, if you feel comfortable sharing, I’d love for you to leave a comment here and write the three answers you filled in on the last page.

Type your answers in the comment box below.   Just type




I’ll repost the writing prompts here.


Reflection Prompts

#1: – The most important thing I learned about myself is:

#2 – One thing I plan to do (as a result of the self-care starter kit) is:

#3 – A question, idea or comment I have is:

Thanks so much for sharing.



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