Let’s face it, we all want the essence of Mary Poppins when it comes to babysitters, but keeping our tykes on their best behavior isn’t exactly as simple as a spoon full of sugar. Sometimes, our kiddos can be downright tyrants that even we can’t handle being around, so it’s a bit difficult to blame the sitters if they’re having issues dealing with our offspring (or keeping good sitters around longer for that matter).
That being said, not all hope is lost. Oftentimes, the difference between a frustrating babysitting experience and an utterly perfect one lies in how we prep our sitters (or how the sitters prep for the littles for that matter). Whether you’re a babysitter looking for tips for getting the kiddos to listen, or you’re a parent looking to improve the chances of keeping a good sitter on the hook, there are a few fool-proof tricks to keep things running smooth and fun!
For starters, it’s imperative to have a quick discussion before the first babysitting experience. Don’t just throw a new sitter to the wolves – er, children – and expect them to have the kiddos whipped into shape and singing delightfully while you’re gone.
Sitters and parents need to sit down and discuss what works already. Parents, let your sitters know how you discipline and any tricks you currently use. Sitters, always ask what parents prefer before starting a sitting job. That way you’re all on the same page and keeping some fluidity to the discipline and behavior acceptance the children are used to already.
That being said, here is a list of our Top 5 Babysitting Discipline Tricks that really work:
1. Let Them Find Their Own Solutions
If the kids have a conflict – fighting over a toy for example – (not that your angels would ever do such a thing, but I know mine do) – give them a minute to resolve the issue on their own. Always intervene before things get too heated (in which case, taking the toy away so no one gets it if they can’t agree), but give them the time to find their own solution first. Often, kids just need to learn how to handle issues on their own.
2. Keep a Light Mood No Matter What
When kids don’t listen – and let’s be honest here, all kids do this – try keeping things comical and light, ignoring all other requests from them until they listened to what you asked in the first place. If you make it a game – and one that sings the high praises to whomever listens first, the others will do the same in an attempt to garner the positive reactions too.
3. Walk Away from Tantrums
As hard as it may be to do, tantrums should always be ignored. Actually, leaving the room is the best choice altogether (as long as you can keep an eye on the youngster from a distance without them knowing you’re watching).
When kids don’t have an audience for their tantrums, you’ll be surprised how quickly it disperses. Don’t speak to the child until they calm down and talk to you in normal tones.
4. Have a Routine and Give Notices
Look, kids have been fighting bedtime since the beginning of time. If you’ve got a task that you know they will not like participating in (chores, brushing teeth, bedtime, etc.), give them ample notice that they will be doing it soon. Telling them they have X-amount of time before the task allows them to prepare for it mentally.
Keeping a routine helps with that too, as does offering a reward for doing the task without argument (story times are great rewards).
5. Confront Aggressive Behavior Immediately
If kids become aggressive, it’s important to intervene immediately to let them know this is unacceptable behavior. We’ve had excellent success with utilizing time-outs for bad behaviors because it allows us to “ignore” them for a while as a result of the bad behavior, then praise them when they apologize afterwards.
As always though, parents and babysitters need to discuss whatever discipline measures are acceptable in the family before any babysitting begins.
Overall, making sure babysitting experiences are positive really isn’t as difficult as some might think. As with most things in life, communication is always key, and knowing which behaviors to ignore and in which to intervene are the major factors.
Talk, talk, talk – that’s the best thing you can do. Parents, give your babysitters the keys they need to make it successful!
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Jamie is a married mother of four – two girls and two boys – ages 3 to 22. With 19 years between her oldest and youngest, she writes to keep her sanity in check with a healthy dose of therapeutic humor injected for good measure. She is a children’s book author and full-time mommy blogger for her site, Momma Juice and regularly guest blogs for other sites.