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What if your first job is baby-sitting?

July 10, 2007|By EVA NIESSNER

It's happened to the best of us. Young women, and sometimes young men, agree to watch the child of a neighbor or parent's friend and end up in a living nightmare.

Often, the kids refuse to obey you, make a mess or are just completely rude. So why do kids enjoy torturing their baby sitters so much? It's often an issue of getting what they want.

"Kids are used to living with specific rules when their parents are around," says the reporter's mother, Pamela Niessner, a certified day-care provider for six years. "When their parents aren't around, they have an opportunity to test the limits of those rules and get away with things they normally wouldn't."

Also, children usually want attention, and when the baby sitter is more interested in getting paid than in the children themselves, they create a scene so the baby sitter is forced to be attentive.

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So what can a teenage baby sitter do when kids are wearing him or her down? Well, the first thing is if you honestly don't think you would like being with kids, don't take a baby-sitting job. It's not for everyone.

Next, find out the family rules the first time you watch the kids. Have the parents explain the rules when the children are near, so they know that you know what is and isn't allowed.

Also, parents can help a baby sitter by specifically telling their kids to be good for a few hours. This helps the parents, too. After all, what good is going out without the kids if parents have to come home and face more problems?

Then, when you're in charge, remember that kids enjoy being played with and entertained, and they pick up on condescension almost as well as teenagers do. So be sincere. Have fun.

A good solution is to find out something they want to do that is allowed, and, if there is more than one child, can be agreed upon by all. If a child only wants to watch TV, try making up a skit involving their favorite show, so they can still be involved with it and not tune out.

Sometimes, the children aren't being bad - they like you, they don't mouth off, and they do what you tell them to do - but they can be hard to handle for one reason or another. If your charges are messy, invent a clean-up game or have a contest to see who can clean up the fastest. If you have a picky eater, ask the parents to leave a list of foods they will eat and are allowed to eat. It's not your place to tell the children what they should and shouldn't be eating.

When the children are being especially stubborn, gently remind them that you have to tell their parents everything that happens once they get home. Children's behavior often improves when they realize they'll be punished by their parents, not just the teenager who has to take care of them.

Children can seem completely impossible, but no kids are evil. And none are out to get you. As long as a baby sitter stays firm and plays nicely, baby-sitting can actually be enjoyable and make you some money at the same time.

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