Holiday Stress: Should You Cancel Christmas?


It’s here: the most wonderful time of year.

Trees are trimmed, music fills the air and hearts swell with gratitude. While many are out shopping, wrapping gifts and enjoying the holiday whirlwind, you feel conflicted.

Your child’s behavior goes beyond the “naughty list” and normal consequences aren’t working. You want your child to know you mean business. Should you cancel Christmas?

Parents who face this concern are often at their wit’s end, frustrated by a lack of effective consequences. No matter how many privileges you take away, your child continues to misbehave. In those moments, canceling special events like prom, birthdays, Christmas or Hanukkah can feel like your only leverage.

In the long run, however, canceling special events isn’t effective – kids become angry and resentful and in many cases, the behavior gets worse. Canceling the event also removes the opportunity for your child to make better choices.

Weigh the costs of canceling a special event. Ask yourself, “What’s my goal here? Is it worth giving up the chance to celebrate as a family in order to teach my child a lesson?

Most special events only happen once – once it’s over, you won’t have anything left to use as motivation. Your child won’t learn anything from the consequence, and you won’t get that time back.

Give yourself permission to address behavior separate from the holiday. You can still celebrate together as a family. You can still give consequences as you need to. Effective consequences should be task-oriented and tied to the original behavior – not to a holiday or special event.

If you need examples of effective consequences, we can help! One of my favorite articles to share with parents is, “Why Don’t Consequences Work for My Teen?” Here’s Why…and How to Fix It..

Wishing you a warm start to the holiday season,

Darlene B., Empowering Parents Coach

“To be effective, a consequence needs to be short-term, task specific, and involve a privilege your child values.” – Megan Devine, LCPC


Darlene Beaulieu is a parent to two teenage daughters. She has been an Empowering Parents Coach since 2009 and has helped thousands of families in that time. She earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling and has worked in school and community settings helping children and families with academic, social, and behavioral issues.

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