Child Discipline for Babysitting

The key to child discipline is not to lose control or leave in doubt who is in charge. And often the parents or guardians will tell you in advance what to do if the child misbehaves. In terms of toddler discipline, this goes from taking something away from a baby and--before he starts screaming--replacing it with something the baby is allowed to have; to preemptive older children discipline: telling a 10-year-old to turn off the TV and coming up with another idea of something for the child to do.

KidsHealth's site is a great one to reference for guidance on disciplining a child. Also see WebMD's involved site for different methods of child discipline. This slightly old but still good excerpt from Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint, MD's Come On People on Oprah.com is not only a helpful read, but it has great articles on the side bars. One can become lost in Oprah's plethora of advice!

Preemptive child discipline, or stopping “bad behavior” before it starts, isn’t always doable, but there are things to keep in mind to lessen the chances a child will act up.

1. For young ones (under 5), follow the child discipline guidelines the parents give you to the tee--what they may eat, watch on TV (or not), when to get a bath, get on PJs, brush teeth, and into bed. Don’t allow them to give you excuses. Pay close attention to the time; don’t allow a 4-year-old to get out the finger painting set 10 minutes before bedtime--instead offer to read him a book or tell him a story. This is especially important for toddler discipline. Toddlers learn to be "naughty" around the age of two.

They may test how closely you're watching them by purposefully making a mess or doing something to grab your attention. Or, they may simply get into trouble on accident. Toddler discipline starts with the kind word, "NO!" and gentle movements. Take away the object that can hurt the child, or remove the child from the situation, and explain to him (even if he's not speaking yet) why he can't do what he was doing. Don't be as stern as you are informational, as toddlers are still learning what's OK and what isn't.

2. When children are old enough to play alone, or without constant guidance, you must check in on them every 15 minutes or so. Leaving a child much longer than that increases the chances that he/she will try something sneaky. A method for children discipline at this age is, instead of sending him to his bedroom, tell him to sit in a particular chair for a few minutes--you can ask him to count to 30, or whatever number he can count to. This makes it punishment, but still somewhat of a learning experience. Same idea with the "naughty step," or any other place where you can still see the child. This form of child discipline is perfect for keeping a child in line without going to an extreme.

3. If your gut feeling is that the 8-year-old hasn’t ever practiced his swing in the back yard with his father’s new clubs, despite the child telling you he’s allowed to, don’t let him. Children love to tell you their mom or dad said they could do some particular thing. Ask yourself if you were the parent, would you allow the child to do whatever it is? If no, tell them they can do it when they are with their mom or dad, but not now. Another question to ask yourself is, regardless of whether the parent allows it, if there is a chance something will go wrong because of this activity (golf ball through a window, etc.) just say no. A tip for good discipline is when you catch a child in a lie, tell her you'll be sure to ask her parents about (the lie) when they arrive home.

4. Children will often become excited at the simple fact that you are there and their parents are gone. This can result in screaming, running through the house, standing on furniture, and anything “wild and loud” to show their excitement or just to show off. After about 30 seconds of this party, calm them down. Speak in low tones, don’t appear amused, and get them focused on something else. A game, a movie, something in the yard. If need be, threaten to call the parents. As the children discipline initiator, it's your job to keep everyone and everything as safe as possible. The longer this wild excitement goes on, the greater the chances these kids will end up hurting themselves or possibly you.


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