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When Your Child Doesn’t Want a Babysitter

You and your spouse are planning a night out for just the two of you, but your child doesn’t want a babysitter.  You will not leave your child home alone.  Are you and your child at an impasse?  Read on for tips on how to proceed.

1.      Ask your child why s/he doesn’t want a babysitter.  Perhaps s/he feels that s/he is “too old” to have a babysitter, s/he doesn’t want you to leave him/her, or s/he doesn’t like his/her current babysitter.

2.      Address your child’s concerns.  For example, you may state that children his/her age may be able to handle most situations on their own, but emergency situations are challenging even for experienced adults.  You may discuss enrolling him/her in childcare safety classes so that he/she can learn to be a babysitter him-/herself; then, going forward, s/he’ll have the knowledge and skills to “babysit” him-/herself.  Alternatively, if your child’s concern is having you leave him/her at all, you need to explain (in an age-appropriate manner) your reason(s) for having a couple’s night out.  You may say, for example, “Daddy and I have been so busy with everything going on at home and in our jobs that we haven’t had time to chat just the two of us for some time now.  You know how you and I love our just-the-two-of-us chats when you’re getting ready for bedtime?  Well, all relationships need those quiet, just-the-two-of-us kinds of conversations every once in a while.”  If your child’s concern is that s/he doesn’t like his/her current babysitter, you should ask questions about the nature of his/her concern(s).  Is the babysitter too strict?  Does the babysitter not pay enough attention to him/her?  Is there an allegation of abuse?  Once you hear the specific concern(s), you should respond by either explaining that the behavior is parent-approved (i.e., the strictness), that you will visit with the baby sitter to see if you can redirect her behavior (i.e., paying more attention to your child), or that you will immediately find another babysitter (i.e., in the event of an allegation of abuse).

3.      Once you and your child have discussed his/her concerns, his/her logic should, in theory, have resolved the matter.  In practical application, however, his/her emotions could (and probably will) keep the matter as yet unresolved.  If this is the case, you must address his/her emotions.  Ask what is prompting these emotions.  It may be fear of being abandoned or anger at being excluded.  Whatever his/her emotion, you should provide him/her with nurturing reassurance.  Then, give him/her 24 hours to think about all that you have told him/her.  After 24 hours have passed, revisit the discussion with him/her.

4.      If your child still objects to having a babysitter, it is time to put your proverbial parental foot down.  You may say, for example, “We’ve talked about this for several days.  I have addressed your concerns as much as I reasonably can.  However, you are not budging from your position; you’re being unreasonable.  So, we’re done discussing this.  Part of this and every other relationship is establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.  We’re bumping up against one of those boundaries now.  You are going to have a babysitter this Friday.  I will do everything in my power to make that as positive experience for you as I can, but, in the end, you choose your attitude about it.  We love you very much, and we know you’ll be just fine with your babysitter.”  (Note:  If your child is particularly headstrong, you may have to grin-and-bear-it through several babysitting evenings characterized by your child’s fits of anger, but you must stay your course.  If you back down, your child will learn successful techniques to manipulate you and erode your healthy boundaries.)

By handling your child’s aversion to having a babysitter as noted above, you can resolve the matter successfully.  It just takes good communication, lots of love, patience and understanding.

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