How to Set Disciplinary Boundaries With Your Babysitter

By Alicia Geigel on August 24, 2023

When you have a babysitter in charge of watching your children for an extended period of time, they are bound to encounter a situation that requires discipline. Discipline can come in several forms, and should always be discussed with you, the parent, before any action takes place. As a parent, setting disciplinary boundaries with your sitter is important and necessary to do, as neither you nor your babysitter wants to deal with any kind of misunderstanding.

Read on for some tips on how to set this type of boundaries with your babysitter!

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1. Establish Ground Rules: Babysitters don’t like to be surprised with new information and work responsibilities after taking on the job, and if you withhold important information just to secure a sitter, they will likely quit within no time. When you hire a babysitter, be transparent and honest about any and all expectations you have regarding childcare. Communicate restrictions (such as certain foods or screen time), discuss activities to do with the children, establish curfews, go over house rules, etc. If your babysitter has a clear understanding of these expectations and rules, they can honestly tell you whether or not they are fit for the position up front.

2. Determine What You Are Comfortable With: Part of the process of hiring a babysitter is learning what you are comfortable with as the experience unfolds. You may have firm ideas of what you may be comfortable with, such as bedtimes, certain foods, electronic usage, etc., and in other areas, like games to play or outside time, you may be more flexible. Determining exactly what you can tolerate and what you will not is an absolute must when you have a babysitter. Put simply, how do you expect them to discipline your children when the rules are so fluid and flexible? Who defines what is ok and what isn’t? It’s very important to reflect on this and come to a mutual understanding with your babysitter, as you don’t want there to be any misunderstandings in terms of discipline.

3. Give the Babysitter Tips for Success: Some babysitters are veterans in the field, and others are simply working this job to make some side money in college. Whether or not your babysitter has years of experience or is a novice, they can always learn new things and most importantly, tips for success. In the case of disciplining your children, you may have a routine or technique that is a solid go-to when things go awry, which your babysitter could absolutely benefit from. All kids are different, but when setting boundaries with your babysitter, give them these few steps to guide them through a disciplinary crisis.

4. Give a Warning: In the midst of having fun, it can be easy for kids to get carried away and a little rowdy. Similarly, it can also be easy for kids to misbehave and not listen to authority. Advise your babysitter to give your kids a warning (perhaps the oldest trick in the book) to help them settle down and turn their listening ears on. North Shore Pediatric Therapy suggests, “In a calm yet firm tone explain to them that if the behavior continues, he will receive “______” as a consequence.”

5. Remove the Source of the Problem: When kids are overwhelmed or overstimulated, they are likely to act out. Whether it be loud games, music, or TV, or a sibling that is pushing their buttons, kids often react strongly to intense external factors. If your babysitter notices that your kid is being bothered by something that is within their control, recommend that they remove the source of the problem for your child, so they can calm down. Remember to remind the babysitter to tell your child that these actions are not punishment and rather a means to help them feel better.

6. When in Doubt, Time Out: The age-old solution to kids acting up is arguably a favorite among parents and babysitters. In the case that your babysitter absolutely cannot get a grip on your kids, let them go the route of time out. Time out is just a means of getting your kid to take some time to calm down, reflect on their actions, and understand that there can’t be fun when there is bad behavior.

7. Encourage Open Communication: No parent or child is perfect, and it’s important to show your babysitter that it is not only ok but also encouraged to speak up and say what’s on their mind when they experience an issue. Unfortunately, kids will be kids, and sometimes, they can be disobedient or have trouble adjusting to certain rules/changes. If your babysitter is struggling with dealing with these problems directly, it is important to foster communication with them when problems are occurring. It not only maintains transparency and creates an honest, healthy relationship, but it also gives you a chance to talk to your child, understand the problem, and try to fix it yourself. Additionally, it gives your babysitter the opportunity to learn from you and try to apply certain techniques or approaches to a difficult situation while they are on the job.

8. Enforce Consequences if Rules Are Disobeyed: In the case that there is evidence that your babysitter has not followed the rules you have established, be firm and remind them that there are strong consequences for doing so- consequences that you have no problem implementing if you decide to continue with their service. Christopher Coble of FindLaw notes, “Make sure the babysitter knows there can be consequences for disregarding or disobeying these rules, beyond not getting hired again. There can be legal liability, both criminal and civil, for mistreating a child in his or her care as well.”

Setting disciplinary boundaries with your babysitter requires some effort, open communication, and understanding. If you and your babysitter can get on the same page regarding rules and discipline, you will undoubtedly have a healthy situation for your children.

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