Babysitters and misbehaving children

Reasons children misbehave and how babysitters can handle them.

Children misbehave. Usually children misbehave more for their parents than anyone else, including babysitters. When taking care of other people’s children, it’s wise to have a conversation with the parents to know what their expectations are for discipline if the children misbehave while they are gone and you are in charge. A note to babysitters: Some families spank their children when they misbehave and may give you permission to spank. Spanking is not an effective way to show children appropriate behavior. Knowing why children misbehave helps us realize the need to be patient and helpful.

Why do children misbehave? Here are several reasons from Michigan State University Extension:

Attention: Children like to share and many times this sharing takes place when babysitters are involved with something else like changing diapers or fixing lunch. Assure children you will be right with them and follow through on that promise.

Get a need met: How frustrated do you become when someone doesn’t understand what you need? Children also get frustrated and we feel helpless because they may not have the language skills yet to tell us what’s wrong. Patience on your part will help the child and together you can figure out what is needed.

Independence: While it may be easier for you to do something for a young child, they want and need to accomplish tasks on their own. Young children tend to take on tasks they aren’t ready for, so be on the lookout for age appropriate duties.

The child is too young: Rules are for those who understand the meaning of a rule and very young children are not ready to understand. They can be shown how to hold a baby chick, but simply telling them won’t save the chick’s life if it is held too tight. Keep in mind older children’s rules also need to be clear and consistent to be remembered.

Overwhelmed: Children tend to misbehave when life has gotten too hectic. Maybe they missed a nap, have been on a long car trip, had a lot of company at the house or the family has gone through changes. Children who are overwhelmed need calm and quiet. Playing with play dough, reading books and coloring are all ways for children regain control of their feelings.

What can a babysitter do about misbehavior?

Help prevent inappropriate behavior: Scan the area. Are there items available to children that are breakable or just not for children? Move the items while you are there and the problem will go away. Obviously you can’t rearrange the whole house, but you can make some changes while you are there as long as you put items back before you leave. Moving potential hazards seems much easier than constantly chasing after a child.

Show a child: Show them what else they can do by distracting them. Young children have short attention spans. When you show them a different activity, they will become interested and forget what they were just doing. Short attention spans go both ways and you may need to perform this over and over again.

Ignore the behavior: Children will seek attention in any way they can, and if ripping magazine covers gets attention they will try this trick again. Can you ignore it? Not really. But you can simply move the magazines and take the child over to the toys.

Notice appropriate behavior: An effective way to reinforce the behavior we want from children is by noticing appropriate behavior. If you see children sharing toys make a remark to that effect. “Wow, you both really know how to share toys, great job.”

Helping children learn what is appropriate behavior is the guiding factor of discipline. The word discipline actually means to teach. Babysitters can teach children how to behave through role modeling, gentle corrections and short messages, and spending more time having fun together.

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