Babysitter guide: What to do when the child has difficult to handle behavior

Here is our little babysitter guide for dealing with some “difficult” behaviors of children. Because babysitting is a wonderful job, but children aren’t always little angels! And when they bite, throw things, throw tantrums, don’t listen to you, it’s important to know what to do.

The first rule for dealing with tantrums and other difficult behaviors is, of course, to talk about them with parents. As we will see, all children behave in a difficult way, some more, some less. But if it seems to you that throwing, biting, or tantrum is too frequent, compare with the parents: have they noticed the problem too? How they behave? In this way, the child will receive the same response to his behavior from both you and the parents, he will not feel disoriented and the problem will be solved sooner.

But what are the difficult behaviors we talk about in this babysitter guide? Let’s see them in order of the child’s age and let’s start with the first one: throwing objects.

The child throws everything on the floor

As long as it is about the doll dropped from the high chair, everything is fine. But what to do if the child you care for throws his toys from the balcony? Or on the little brother? Let’s say immediately that it is a normal behavior starting from 8/9 months and it is necessary for the child to experience the cause – effect relationship. What happens if I throw the spoon out of the high chair? Does it fall to the ground or fly high? Like a little scientist, he repeats the same experiment many times. Not only. It is also a way to train to overcome the detachment from the mother, verifying that something that is not there (like the mother) then reappears.

What can you do then? Don’t scold him, but pick up the item and give it back with a smile. If the object breaks or if the throw is directed at a person, you have to explain in simple sentences that it is not done: “no! the plate breaks “or” the child gets hurt “. The “throw on the ground” phase can last up to 2 years.

If the child is already over two years old, the throwing continues and becomes angry or directed at people, then it can be a way to give voice to feelings that he cannot express otherwise: anger, dissatisfaction, sadness. Again, you have to make it clear that it is not done, remaining calm and using short sentences. And above all, help him give a name and put into words what he feels: “I know you’re angry because you want to stay in the park, but things don’t get too close”. If you want to know more, read the “ What to do if your child throws everything on the floor” chapter of our Babysitter Guide.

Babysitter’s guide: the “biter”

Have you ever been bitten by the child you care for? It is a fairly common experience for babysitters of children between 1 and 3 years old. Biting – like throwing – is a normal stage in a child’s growth. Not all the little ones go through it, but many do.

Why do they bite? For many reasons: because they have toothache, because it is a way of exploring the world, to defend themselves or to delimit their spaces, to attract attention, to gain power over their older brother. As for throwing objects, for children even the bite can be a way of expressing emotions that they are not yet able to express in words: they want the toy that a friend has taken, they are afraid, they are sad. You can read more in our post ” when babies bite “.

What to do, then, to prevent it from biting other children? First of all, avoid things that can make him irritable (hunger, wet diaper, tiredness). The advice, in this little guide for babysitting, is to try to understand if some people or situations trigger the bites and try to avoid them. Before he bites, help him express his anger and frustration in words: “ask Paolo to give you back your toy car”. If, on the other hand, he has already bitten, take care of the “victim” child, so he will understand that biting does not serve to attract your attention, on the contrary…. Repeat with a firm tone (but without shouting) and looking him in the eye that “does not bite. Bites hurt ”. 

What to do when they have a tantrum?

In a guide for babysitters, the “whims” chapter cannot be missing. First thing to do, remember that a tantrum takes two. What does it mean? That the whim is not something that the child “does” alone but something that the adult and the child build together, with actions and reactions. In other words, if you know what the right things to do are you can be able to “turn off” a whim (because it also depends on you), while if you manage it the wrong way the whim can increase or last longer.

The first piece of advice, the most obvious but also the most difficult to follow, is: stay calm. A deep breath, maybe you go into another room just for a few seconds, and then play down: “today you are really angry!”, “Let’s see what we can do”. This way you avoid the build-up of tension and make the child feel that you know what to do and that you don’t lose your head at his whim. This makes him feel safe and prevents the tantrum from getting worse.

If you can please him or find a compromise, do it. Give him another five minutes of play before you go home, allow him an ice cream before dinner but small little (if you know the parents agree). If, on the other hand, you can’t please him, still give importance to his request and don’t dismiss it as nonsense: “Now we really have to go home, but tomorrow after school we’ll go back here to the park. I promise! Let’s tie a knot in the handkerchief so we can remember it ”.

As soon as he is calmer, however, try to understand what the real reason for the whim is, the emotion that generated it. The whims of children, in fact, generally have a double reason: the apparent one (he doesn’t want that shirt, he doesn’t want to go to the pool, he wants an ice cream at all costs) and the deep one. As we explain better in our post on the subject (Babysitter guide: how to handle children’s whims) the child who throws a tantrum is saying that “there is something wrong”, and often he does not even know what the problem is. . Insecurity, fear of something new, pacifier withdrawal , jealousy, or just tiredness.

How can you help him? Making him feel that you understand him. “You really don’t want to go to the pool today, do you? Would you like to go home and play. Yes, you’re right, that would be great. So you know what we do? After swimming we go home and play. What do you say?”. Such a response makes the child feel that you understand how he feels. And sometimes this is enough to extinguish a whim.

What to do if the child does not listen

“Go wash your hands”. How many times do you have to say it before being heard? The child who does not listen is one of the attitudes that most annoy babysitters, parents, teachers and anyone who has to do with children and teenagers. We put it last in this little babysitting guide because it is generally about slightly older children. And the more they grow the more it seems to get worse.

First of all, rule out that it is a hearing problem: mild hearing loss is quite common in children under 5, especially in winter, due to painless and symptom-free phlegm effusions. Try calling him softly with your back to him and see if he can hear you. If you think it’s a hearing problem, talk to your parents about it.

In most cases, however, children hear perfectly well. The problem is, they don’t listen. To be able to make you listen, then, it is useless to raise your voice. Instead, try changing what you say, how you say it, and when you say it. Here, in summary, are some things to try:

  • Do you listen to him? Sometimes if the child does not do what you ask him to do, it is because he has a valid reason, that he may not be able to explain to you or that he knows you will not listen. He does not put on his hat because he is hot, or he does not eat simply because he is not hungry. Be the first to set a good example and listen to his reasons, instead of expecting him to always do what you ask “no ifs and buts”;
  • You’re asking an impossible thing: “Play but don’t get dirty”, “Stay where I can see you”. If you make impossible requests, the child will not listen to them. For example, better tell him to stay where he can see you;
  • Wait a minute. Children have their own times. Sometimes they have heard, but they just need a little more time to act. Wait a minute before repeating the request;
  • Are you asking too many things all at once? If you want to be heard, try giving a few instructions at a time. Some children cannot memorize too many “commands” at one time.

Or is the problem that you are speaking at the wrong time? And have you tried talking with gestures? In the chapter of our babysitter guide dedicated to what to do if your child does not listen  you will find other tips to make you listen.

Whatever behavior tests you, remember: don’t raise your voice (it’s counterproductive), talk to your parents about it, and say “good” every time he makes progress. It takes patience and practice. But in the end the results come.