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Oct 9

How Babysitters Can Get Kids to Listen: 5 Tips to Help You Succeed

This is a guest post by Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC

You’ve landed a babysitting job, but now find yourself faced with trying to get kids to listen. It’s after dinner and they are still running around the house yelling, fighting, and refusing to do homework. Your reputation is on the line and you don’t want to lose a client. How are you going to get them under control before the parents get home? Know that you are in a situation that virtually every babysitter finds herself in at one time or another. Children love to push buttons and test limits. The trick is how you respond to their behavior. Here are a few tips to show you how to stay calm with kids:

  1. 1. Prepare for it. Go into the job knowing that kids will be kids. There is a high risk they will try to take advantage of you just for the fun of it. By being prepared, you can already have a game plan in mind on how to thoughtfully respond.
  2. 2. Don’t take it personally. Bad behavior is par for the course. If a child screams in your face and tries to make your time miserable, remember to separate yourself from the emotion. You’re there to do a job, and their behavior has nothing to do with you. To work as a babysitter, you need to develop thick skin.
  3. 3. You can’t control their actions, but you can control you reaction. Children get a kick out of winding people up and watching them explode. You make the choice to react or not. Remind yourself that “losing it” is not an option, because it makes you look unprofessional and parents will be less likely to hire your services again.
  4. 4. Respond thoughtfully, rather than emotionally. When a child provokes you, take a moment to think about the situation. It’s so easy to have a knee-jerk reaction and yell back, but that’s going to make the anxiety worse. Take a deep breath, count to ten, or walk away. When you feel in control of your emotions again, calmly talk to the child. This may be hard if they are still being explosive, but stay calm no matter what.
  5. 5. Calm is contagious. As the babysitter, you are responsible for setting boundaries and guiding (not controlling) the children in your care. If you remain calm, most likely they’ll follow suit, because you aren’t feeding their anxious energy. This could take a few practice sessions, but don’t give up if you don’t see the desired results right away.

If you find yourself in a tricky situation, remember these tips and this phrase “Calm is contagious.” The more you practice being calm, the more quickly it will become habit. Soon, you will find yourself being able to stay in control in situations with difficult kids. When you master this technique, the children will behave better and the parents will notice, too. You’ll earn their respect as a trusted babysitter, and may even get new clients through word-of-mouth.

For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of The Calm Parent AM & PM program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

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