Enforcing rules and discipline isn’t a fun task for any parent. No one wants to be the “bad cop,” the “nag,” or the “not-fun parent.”
But we have rules for a reason. Your children need to know it’s NOT OK to hit or bite other children, particularly their siblings. They need to understand that it’s wrong to take something that’s not theirs, or say something that’s unkind to another adult or child. They need to understand there are consequences for unacceptable actions.
And the best way to enforce your rules is through consistency. To be consistent, everyone who cares for your children — including you, your spouse and your sitter or nanny — must be on the same page when it comes to not only knowing what is right or wrong, but also enforcing the consequences for wrong behavior.
If your sitter knows how you usually respond when your kids’ behavior goes south, she can respond the same way, which will strengthen her authority and help her reinforce the rules you’ve already established. Here are some steps for including your sitter in your discipline plan, if you aren’t already doing so.
- Establish solid rules. Sit down with your spouse or significant other and establish solid rules. While you might both agree on a vague definition of “right” and “wrong,” you might not be on the same page when it comes to what your kids deserve a consequence for behaviors. You may agree they should have a consequence for hitting another child, but don’t agree on what that consequence should be. By deciding what the rules are and the consequences for breaking those rules, it will be easier for your sitter to follow through with your kids on what you want.
- Be consistent (with yourself and your sitter). It’s easy to let things go, or give your child a shorter timeout if you’re having a bad day or don’t feel like you have the energy to deal with misbehaving children. By sticking to your plan, and giving your sitter the authority to do the same, your kids will remember the rules, which will hopefully make things easier on everyone the next time they are tempted to break them.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Perhaps you’ve decided that the main consequence for breaking a key behavioral or household rule is a timeout. And the length of that timeout will match in minutes your child’s age. If your sitter ends up telling your 5-year-old the consequence for hitting his sister is no dessert after dinner, instead of a 5-minute timeout, don’t get mad. The main point is that your child needs to have a consequence for his actions. And by not allowing your child to have dessert, he got that consequence. Focusing on the big picture, instead of non-consequential details, will make the entire process less stressful for everyone.
- Respect your sitter’s ideas and approach. You can respect your sitter by not only listening to her ideas and considering them (after all, she spends a good amount of time with your kids as well and might have some insight you haven’t yet uncovered). You can also respect her by speaking about her positively to your kids when she isn’t around. This will help enforce among your kids that you support your sitter’s decisions and disciplinary actions when you aren’t around.
What are some ways you work with your sitter to enforce your discipline plan? We’d love to hear more ideas. Post your ideas on our Facebook page to share them with our SeekingSitters family!