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Teach Your Child to Behave with a Babysitter

Whether putting your child in the care of a babysitter is an occasional thing or an everyday occurrence, you will feel much better leaving him or her if you know they are behaving while you’re gone!

Teaching your child to behave for the sitter will involve:

  • Selecting the right caregiver
  • Developing a good understanding and working relationship with the sitter
  • Clearly communicating expectations and boundaries to your child
  • Rewarding good behavior and having consequences for poor behavior

Each age and developmental stage has its own childcare challenges. Some of these tips may help!

Preschool

Very young babies may not realize you are gone. They may, however, refuse a bottle if breastfed, or become especially fussy at the new company or new surroundings. Many people prefer to have a sitter come to their home to minimize the stress a new environment may cause.

Older babies and toddlers can have great anxiety when you prepare to leave. Reassuring them that Mommy and Daddy always come back and leaving a favorite toy or blanket with them may help. The promise of a fun activity upon your return will sometimes appease them.

Very young children feel more comfortable with folks they know and have had interaction with. When hiring a babysitter, have them come for 2 or 3 visits so that your young child can become familiar with the sitter’s face, voice and smell. Playful interchange between them might help your child feel less threatened when left in the sitter’s care.

It is not reasonable to expect a very small child or baby to “behave” for the sitter, but you can praise them when things have gone well and let them know how proud you are of their good behavior.

One note: It is extremely important to carefully interview a potential sitter and to ask for at least 3 references. You may find it necessary to interview several until you find a good fit for your family. Never take chances with someone you have not thoroughly checked out. Take the time necessary to be sure of the person you are trusting to keep your child safe and happy. You may want to check out the interview questions from one of the sites listed in the Resource section below.

Main points to address:

  • It may be better to have a sitter in your own home.
  • Babies and young children will probably behave better if they have had a chance to become familiar with the sitter.
  • Interview prospective babysitters carefully. Check their references.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children are less likely to resist your leaving, but will need to know what kind of behavior is expected during your absence. Working with the babysitter to come up with a system that keeps everyone safe and happy will make time with the sitter more pleasant.

The same household rules you ordinarily follow should apply when you’re gone. Listening to the sitter, observing bedtimes, cleaning up after play and being kind to siblings or other children are basic guidelines that are easy to understand and remember. Remind them of these simple rules before you leave.

If your child will be at the sitter’s home, your child will need to know the rules and expectations in that setting. Always come to an agreement regarding consequences for misbehavior in advance of leaving your child with a new babysitter. You need to feel certain your child is in good hands and that you and the sitter have a clear working relationship.

One of the major causes of misbehaving for a sitter is boredom. Make sure your sitter knows you expect her to spend some time doing interesting and fun activities with your child. During the interview ask her what she does to keep children occupied. You can also provide a list of activities to do or games to play while you are gone.

Let your child know that you will be expecting a good report. Try to be upbeat about leaving. Come home by the time you have promised. If that is not possible, call to let the sitter and your child know you have been delayed. You may want to give a small reward for cooperative behavior upon your return.

Main points to address:

  • Children 6 years and older may be quite willing to stay with a sitter they enjoy.
  • Be very clear with your child and the sitter on the rules in your absence and the consequences of poor behavior.
  • Good sitters know how to occupy children.
  • Try to be upbeat when leaving. Expect a good report.

Grade 4-6th

Older children still need to be supervised by someone they feel safe with. Finding a good sitter could take some time. Hopefully you will find a sitter who is willing to interact with your child by reading to them and playing with them. Children this age are less likely to amuse themselves with toys, preferring human interaction.

Rules will need to be updated for this age group. Use of the phone, television, video games and the computer will need set limits. Guests in your absence should probably be prohibited. Leaving emergency numbers “just in case” is essential.

Older children should be expected to comply with a babysitter’s requests and to use courtesy when speaking with them. Misbehavior in terms of words or actions needs to have meaningful consequences.

Again, getting to know the sitter in advance will probably ease your child’s apprehensions about being left with them. It is very important to believe your child if they feel uneasy around the sitter or report any disturbing occurrences. You are the only thing that stands between your child and the world, so trust their instincts as well as your own.

If you need to leave your child for long periods, keep in touch by phone. Make sure they have enough to do. Board games, crafts and safe cooking activities can make the time pass more pleasantly. Bored children are not happy children and are apt to get into trouble!

Good child care can be hard to come by. Taking the time to find the right person and situation will reassure you and your child that all will be well until you return.

Main points to address:

  • Rules need to be updated for older children.
  • Misbehavior needs to have meaningful consequences.
  • Believe your child. Trust their instincts, as well as your own.
  • Prevent restlessness and boredom. Make sure your child has enough to do.

Resources
Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Character.

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