The holidays are just around the corner…and so, too, are those few holiday guests who always seem to get under your skin. While we each have our own unique family dynamics, there are a few common classic personalities that many of us may face each holiday season. Here’s how to deal with them in order to keep the peace at your holiday dinner table.

The Holier-Than-Thou Vegan/Paleo/Crossfit Devotee

Be prepared is always my motto. Plan ahead, by texting or phoning guests, asking them about food allergies, as well as food preferences, such as veganism. If their particular food needs are not on your menu, they can easily bring along what they desire. That way, they’re contributing one of their special dishes to the holiday meal, and getting much-needed attention for being part of the team.

The Glued-to-the-TV Brother-in-Law (who never lifts a finger while all the women slave away in the kitchen)

Call for help. A secret in psychology is that when people help you, they like you better, because they’ve made an investment in you… and you must be worth it. Therefore, approach that relative with clear and precise instructions of what you need from him, and then make sure he follows through. Believe it or not, this can be a real bonding experience.

The Overextended Mom (your own mom — or you yourself!)

You have to meet someone where they are, and many times an overextended mom or relative is doing what she needs to do. So, it’s important to appreciate that, without creating any negative energy or controlling her behavior. You have to step back and accept your mom for who she is, and be gracious and say thank you… now you are both grown-ups.

The Surly, Doesn’t-Want-to-Be-Here Teenager

Don’t buy in to the teenager’s need for attention, and don’t invest any energy there. That will only feed the problem. When a teenager is manipulating or passive-aggressive, the best thing you can do is ignore her behavior. If her behavior escalates, a word to her parent should suffice. If you’re the parent, then you should be prepared for this behavior ahead of time, and put in place consequences for when it occurs. What you resist will persist.

In the final analysis, keep your sense of humor – and use sarcasm whenever possible.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.