Each child has a different personality and temperament. That is one of the challenges of babysitting. You will not know what to expect until you are already on the babysitting assignment.  Some kids act differently when their parents are around and when their parents are away.

Some children behave and listen well.  However, some throw tantrums, whine, act out or even physically hurt others.

If you encounter a child with challenging behavior, do not worry.  While it may be difficult, there are actions you can take to make it easier for you to care for and manage a challenging child.

Before we dive into how you should babysit a challenging child, let us go over the possible reasons why children do not listen or why they misbehave.

·       Toddlers may throw tantrums as their way of expressing emotions. They may cry, scream, hit, or even hold their breath if they feel frustrated or upset.  Hunger, sleepiness, or need for attention may be the reason for their frustration.

·       The child does not hear you because he/she is too focused and engrossed in his current activity.

·       The child does not want to follow because he/she wants to do something else.

·       The child is copying a behavior he/she saw from an adult, a sibling, or a playmate.

·       The child is testing his/her limits.

·       The child may have an underlying mental health problem.  He/she might have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or may be suffering from depression.

·       The child is seeking attention.

Now that we know the possible explanation for the child’s misbehavior; let’s discuss what you can do to help the child manage his/her behavior.

Tips on how to deal with a child with challenging behavior

1.    Maintain a routine and structure during your watch.

Children thrive on routine and structure.  Avoid tantrums by ensuring that the child gets sufficient nap time, eats on time, and enough playtime.

You may also choose to have a visual routine drawn up or printed.  The routine chart can serve as the child’s reference on the order of activities during your watch.  Do not forget to give the child’s heads up for any changes to the routine or schedule.

If the child has a mental health condition or physical health condition that requires medications, make sure that the child takes medicine on time.

2.    Stick to the parent’s rules on discipline.

Make sure to ask the parents what the house rules are and how they handle misbehaviors.  Following the parent’s rules can help them implement it at home consistently.

3.    Stay Calm.

Screaming or misbehaviors can get on your nerves, but it is essential to stay calm at all times.  You need to tell and remind yourself that you are dealing with a difficult child.

Your response should model the behavior you want the child to copy.  Be mindful of your voice, tone, and body language.  Always speak softly and talk positively.  Avoid yelling back or hitting.

4.    Help the child manage his/her emotions.

angry offended little girl ignoring advice of mom

You can try any of these strategies and see what will work best on the child.

·       Make the child know and feel that he/she is free to share his/her feelings. Do not blame, humiliate, or threaten a child.  Instead, establish eye contact and ask him/her gently about his/her feelings.

·       Acknowledge their emotions and describe their feelings through words. 

·       Ask the child to write what they are feeling.

·       Ask the child to put their feelings into a drawing or any art.

·       Teach the child how to practice mindfulness. You can read about mindfulness and mindfulness activities from Teaching Mindfulness and Mindfulness Activities blogposts.

These strategies can help your child feel that you care enough to understand what they are feeling.  Also, it will give them some time and room to sort out their emotions.

5.    Plan activities for the child

While letting the child watch or play with the gadget is the easiest thing to do, minimize these activities. Children have lots of energy that they have to burn through physical activities and games.  If you let them sit or lay down all day long, they will have excess energy that will make them uneasy and hyper during the night.

Allot time for play, so the children have a healthy outlet to release their energy. Whether it’s indoor or outdoor, the child will benefit from it.  You can check out Babysitter’s Guide: Fun Activities to with Kids, for ideas and inspirations for your next babysitting assignment.

When the kids have fun with you, they will feel at ease with you and look forward to your next schedule.

6.    Simplify your instructions

Young children may have challenges understanding and following multiple directions at once.  When you give the rules and instructions, break it down into more straightforward instructions.  Make the instructions brief and direct.

You can ask the child to repeat the instructions back to you to confirm if he/she understands the instructions.  If the child did not comprehend the instructions right away, don’t call the child names but instead go over the instructions again.

7.    Be firm

Children like to test their limits and try that by not listening to you and doing what they want. Do not give in even if the child throws tantrums and misbehaves. You have to take a stand and follow the rules.

8.    Encourage positive behavior

Here are some tips to encourage positive behavior.

-        Use positive language when speaking to the child.  For instance, say:

          Try:  "Please pack away the toys."

          Instead of: "Don’t leave the mess on the floor."

-        Establish eye contact and connection with the child.

-        Acknowledge the child when he/she completes a task, talks politely, or takes the initiative.

-        Praise the progress and their effort.

9.    Watch the children’s food.

Give healthy snacks and meals to the children. Avoid giving sugary treats and drinks that can make children hyperactive.

Try these practical tips on your next babysitting assignment and see the difference it can make. Also, remember to keep open communication with the parents. It would be best if you inform them of any misbehaviors and how you handled it.  Work together with the parents to establish a positive environment and routine for the child.

Did you find this article helpful?  You can share your experience of babysitting a child with challenging behavior in the comments section below.

Tiny Steps

We play, learn and grow with children.

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