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The Nightmare Babysitting Charge

The Nightmare Babysitting Charge

By Amalah

I read the Daycare Bullies post on your website and wondering if you might have advice for me. My situation is a little opposite.

I currently homeschool my children (ages 4, 8, 11, 13). I have also babysat a friend’s toddler since he was just days old.

He turned 2 a few months ago. He has a sister that is 12 that lives in the same home full time. He has 3 step-brothers that are in his home every other weekend and occasional holidays. Their ages are 9-14. The toddler’s parents since he was born, parent permissively.

I, however, do not. I’m not perfect by any means but I am doing my best. I have rules of respect and kindness in my home. I follow through with what I say. And I try to parent with the Love & Logic method.

It is very frustrating to have this toddler in my home. He is very bright and usually stubborn. I realize he is 2 and is learning. But the parenting style of his home and mine are clashing. He can communicate. He often says “no want be nice”, “no want say please”, “no want talk nice”, “no want clean toys” etc. He is mouthy, defiant, disrespectful to me and my oldest. He refuses to share or take turns. He orders my daughter and I around. Yells a lot. Throws tantrums. Hits, shoves, throws things at my children. He is no longer allowed to touch or be near our animals (1 dog and 3 cats) because he hits them and is mean to them. I used to try and work with him on how to be gentle and praise his good behavior, but it doesn’t work. I have to be in the same room to supervise. His behavior is worse when I turn my back or just go to the bathroom. His mom allows him to bring toys, candy, coke, etc because she “just doesn’t want to fight with him”. Of course I put them in the diaper bag after she drops him off.

A few weeks ago she asked if anything had happened or changed lately so she could understand why he hates coming to my house. I explained he is talking back more and his rudeness and meanness isn’t acceptable. He sits on time out and doesn’t get his way… I don’t give in to tantrums. She didn’t say anything.

Recently my children and I went to their home for Christmas gift exchange. It was a nightmare. He wasn’t nice as you can imagine. His mom did nothing. Her 12 year old daughter was justifying the toddler’s behavior to my children (when my 4yr old said “ow that hurts please stop”). I had to be the one to intervene. And several times there was rudeness. All while she still did nothing but sigh.

I understand feeling tired. I understand feeling overwhelmed. I’m a single mother and only parent to them. I’m juggling my kids, their homeschooling, watching her kid, and managing my own photography business. I’m tired too. But I feel there’s some behavior that’s not ok. No one is the exception at my house. The rules are the same for everyone.

I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure how to or if it’s possible to help his behavior while he is at my house? Please help. Please advise.

Frustrated Friend

One detail that’s not included here is whether the babysitting income is something essential to your household, or if the arrangement arose out of the existing friendship as a more of a “favor.”

If it’s the former, it’s time to make a change. This arrangement is no longer a good fit.

If it’s the latter, it’s also time to make a change. This arrangement is no longer a good fit.

Sorry to be so blunt, but seriously. He hurts your children and your pets. He is exhibiting significant behavior problems that would cause issues and concerns  and talks of expulsion at ANY daycare program. You have spoken to his mother and nothing has changed. (And most likely won’t, as she joins right in with a disregard for your rules by sending in toys, candy, and soda. FOR A 2 YEAR OLD AHHHH RAGE STROKE.)

And you’ve seen first-hand that his behavior problems continue at home and are completely ignored, tolerated and excused.

Honestly, your friend needs a wake-up call. And her son needs her to get said wake-up call and DEAL WITH THIS. He’s out of control and it’s not his fault, but it seems highly doubtful that whatever time he spends in your home is going to have any real impact at this point. You’ve tried. But you need to put your own children (and animals, and personal sanity) first and that’s okay.

Ending the arrangement and pushing your friend to find a more formal daycare setting for this child might be exactly what they both need. He needs age-appropriate socialization and better behavior modeling from peers his own age. He needs adults who are actually trained in early childhood education and development to deal with his behaviors, and possibly figure out if there’s something deeper going on than just a spoiled 2 year old. (The violence and defiance your describe does sound troubling.)

And your friend needs to hear that SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE, is putting her foot down about this child’s behavior and enforcing some freaking consequences. Any good daycare provider would do the same at this point. It’s sticky because there’s a friendship here, but hey! At least he’s not your grandkid or something. This babysitting arrangement is business, and you are perfectly entitled to put an end to it for any reason, at any time.

If you need the money, find a different babysitting charge or offer up homeschooling/tutoring services to an older kid, but get this particular child out of your home. Be completely honest with your friend that it’s because he’s hitting and hurting and you’re just not equipped to handle his tantrums. Suggest that it’s probably time to get him into a more formal/structured program with kids his own age, for better socialization.

And after that, it’s out of your hands. She might remain in a state of denial and refuse to discipline or set limits. She might get super defensive and not talk to you for awhile. She might just pawn him off on another friend or neighbor who lets him run wild. It sucks to watch innocent kids spiral because of crappy/lazy parenting, but it’s not your fault. Or your responsibility (provided there’s no abuse/neglect going on that needs to be reported, but that doesn’t sound like the case here). You did your best for two full years now and it’s no longer a good fit. Your kids, pets, safety, sanity, personal-preference-to-not-deal-with-a-raging-sugared-up-toddler-behaving-like-a-monster are all allowed to take priority over a babysitting arrangement you made a long time ago with a friend.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Marisa
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Marisa

I could be reading too much into this, but maybe your friend is also ready for the change but is worried about offending you. Can you frame it as something you think is best for him – he is so unhappy at your house, maybe that is why he is acting out so much? That way you’re letting her know his behavior is the cause but it sounds less, your kid sucks, I can’t watch him anymore because of said suckness.

K
Guest
K

I don’t think it has to be about the kid “sucking”, even if she is being clear about why she can no longer watch him. I agree with Amalah – OP it’s time to make a change. I hope you aren’t relying on any income that you get from this arrangement, but if you are, it may not even be worth it. And I encourage you to be honest with your friend. If my child was acting that way (cruelty to animals, repeated hitting, shoving, ANY of that stuff), I would want to know. And while I bet she sees… Read more »

Susie
Guest
Susie

“I just don’t want to fight with him”???? And he’s two?? Drop that like it’s hot, mama. Your kids don’t need his bad example nor the pain caused by him, and clearly that mama is missing some priorities. This will not improve without a boot to the hiney. And good luck, because that conversation isn’t going to be pleasant. 

MJH
Guest
MJH

I’ve read through this twice and I honestly don’t see any behaviors that are that wacky for a just-turned-2-year-old. They aren’t gentle with animals. (You have to go over and over and over it again.) They hit and bite and you have to draw boundaries over and over and over again.

Now, if the caregiver is the only one doing the boundary-drawing, it’s not going to stick if the parents aren’t reinforcing it. So yeah, I agree with Amalah. Time to move this kid on. No one sounds happy with this arrangement.

JOJ
Guest
JOJ

Echoing MJH’s comment above, I reread this several times and honestly I don’t see anything that is beyond normal for a 2-year-old. It is normal that they don’t know how to be gentle with animals, or that they hit and bite. Certainly not ideal, but normal. A 2-year-old coupled with significantly older and larger children will probably find a way to get attention and communicate the only ways he knows how — probably through non-ideal methods at that age. The fact that he bites or hits or whatever isn’t a reflection on him but more a reflection that he needs… Read more »

SarahB
Guest
SarahB

I agree with a PP that a lot of this is normal two year old behavior. I imagine part of the problem is the permissiveness at home–but also I wonder how much age appropriate activities and focus there is for the two year old when the OP is also home-schooling four other kids. It’s not like the day is structured around the two year old’s stage of development like it would be a daycare center or in-home daycare with a toddler age range. I think that kind of structure would hep this kid a great deal.

Ali
Guest
Ali

Echoing the comments above…to me, his behavior doesn’t seem THAT out of line with normal 2 year old behavio, esp a 2 year old competing for attention with 4 other kids.  I had my 2nd child when my oldest was just over 2, and 2 was an incredibly hard age for us.  My sweet boy transformed into a defiant 2 year old despite us giving plenty of boundaries and age appropriate punishments.  In retrospect, I think 2 would’ve been a tough age for him regardless of whether or not there was a new baby, but the baby and lack of… Read more »

Shelly
Guest
Shelly

My child isn’t yet two, but I have an additional idea for the OP. Perhaps look around for a low cost/ free parenting program that might be offered through a local community centre or similar. If the toddler’s mom does say that she’s a bit out of her depth, it could be helpful to have some resources ready to point her in the right direction.

Brenda
Guest
Brenda

Um, wow, he just turned TWO.  Both the OP and Amalah need ease off the judgement!  This behaviour is completely age-appropriate.  (There’s a reason they’re called the “terrible twos,” folks.)  Take a deep breath and have some compassion for the poor kid. I’m not saying he doesn’t need discipline.  Every child needs discipline.  My favourite resources for this age group come from RIE, or Janet Lansbury’s website.  It’s a more gentle, respectful, and non-punitive approach that takes into account where two-year-olds are at. No, I don’t give in to my 2-year-old’s tantrums, nor does she get ridiculous treats, nor do… Read more »

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

Not to be a jerk, but I have a two year old and he does none of those things.  As I have a two year old, I’m around a whole bunch of them and very few of them are a danger to the cat. I think that we can all agree there is a clear line between developmentally appropriate 2 year old jerkness (which yeah, they can be) and ‘holy shit there is a problem with your boundaries’.   I also am a teacher and I see a lot of kids who have zero home boundaries, and there is a… Read more »

Alyssa
Guest
Alyssa

I’m so happy reading the comments, because it broke my heart to read the letter and response. This poor little boy is just 2 years old and the expectations of him are not age appropriate, and the language used to describe him (rude, mouthy, disrespectful) is not appropriate behaviour / language from a caregiver.  If you want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, tell a kid they are bad, and watch them live up to it.  I think some people aren’t meant to do daycare, (not trying to be insulting) but you can be a good mom and not a great… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I agree with the other commenters that most of this seems like normal 2 year old behavior (on the extreme end of the spectrum but still normal). The problem comes in with the fact that the parents aren’t parenting when he’s with them and the letter writer can’t do it on her own. Maybe if he was the only kid that she was taking care of but not while also homeschooling her own older kids (I also agree that part of the issue is that he’s competing with so many other older kids to get attention both at home and… Read more »

Ali
Guest
Ali

Brenda, totally agree with your comment.  The mom may very well not be disciplining appropriately (who knows, it is hard to tell as an outsider), but the language used to describe this little boy just make me sad.  Two year olds aren’t “rude” or “mean”…they’re just two. I know if it was my child being described that way, or spending huge amounts of time in time out (even if sparked by bad behavior), I would be incredibly upset.  And I think if anything I am “strict” with my expectations for my kids…but a 2 year old is still just so… Read more »

Marisa
Guest
Marisa

Totally agree with other commenters. I don’t think you have to love to pieces every kid you babysit, but when you start disliking them this much and attributing age inappropriate characteristics and motivations to them, it is time to end the relationship. I do not agree with other commenters’ suggestions that the letter writer has an obligation to tell the mother why or just how awful she thinks her kid is. Find any reason and just end the arrangement. I echo my earlier comment, I think the mother probably has picked up on this and also wants the arrangement to… Read more »

tsm
Guest
tsm

Yeah…I read through it twice, and I agree w/all the people who say it’s normal 2 yo behavior, with the exception of some of the shoving, etc. Should his mother be super permissive? No. But the letter-writer, on the other hand…I may be reading too much into this, but the her insistence on “*I* do not parent permissively” combined with the description of the child as “mouthy” and “defiant” plus, tbh, the homeschooling makes me wonder just how strict she really IS. I wonder (1) how long he is sitting in time-out and (2) whether the punishments (is it just… Read more »

tsm
Guest
tsm

to clarify on the taking stuff away from him issue…OBVS you should not give a 2yo soda (although, nutritionally, decaf soda is not particularly worse for you, per calorie/mL, than straight juice or those beloved organic squeeze juice packs in our preschool set).
But regardless of where one stands on the soda issue, the caregiver should not then take that (plus toys!) away from the child without telling the mother. Soda and candy may be iffy parenting, but they are not child abuse.

Flic
Guest
Flic

Erm, guys? The OP HAS HAD 4 KIDS of her own I’m pretty sure she’s well awar of what “normal toddler behaviour” is like.
The bigger issue, is the fact that the OP and the kid’s parents aren’t on the same page about anything. Whether or not the kid is being a typical two year old, or a complete brat is irrelevant because the reactions and consequences to his behaviour are not the same across the board.

OP, you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s not fair on anyone.

M
Guest
M

This is a fortuitous opportunity for me. I am the original writer of the “Daycare Bullies” letter (https://alphamom.com/parenting/daycare-bullies/), and I have often thought of it and the responses it provoked. Over the last couple years, I’ve sort of passively waited for an opportunity to follow up. My then-2-year-old is now 5, and I have a 3.5-year-old and a 4-month-old now, too. When I wrote that letter, I was pretty isolated from other moms–I was working full time and finishing my PhD, and my experience at daycare was my first experience placing my first child with an assorted collection of children.… Read more »

MH
Guest
MH

Wow. I don’t normally comment, but I just have to say how touched I am by your thoughtful response. I work with older kids, and I have seen too many instances in which behavior that is triggered or exacerbated by an inappropriate environment and/or developmental phase is equated with some essential character flaw. Thank you for sharing your perspective on how complex growing up can be. Let’s hope it inspires some more compassion for kids (and parents!) who are going through a rough time. That’s not to say that consistent approaches to managing behavior don’t matter–they certainly do–but not everything… Read more »

Bella
Guest
Bella

I am the parent of a two year old, as well as an early childhood developmental specialist who has worked professionally with children this age for many years. The OP’s tone towards this child just breaks my heart, because her dislike and lack of respect towards this child are so evident with every line. It seems clear that this child doesn’t have an ideal home situation, and that is contributing to his behavioral issues, but frankly my son comes from a 2 parent family that is very much on board with consistent discipline and has the additional asset of professional… Read more »

DV
Guest
DV

I have to echo what everyone else is saying, that the OP’s tone indicates it’s time to be done with the arrangement, more for the sake of the child than anything else.  I come from a POV of the mother of the difficult child, who has been struggling with his own defiant issues. I could tell that the teacher at his daycare was fed up with him and probably taking things out on him a little more than would be done to other kids in the class. We had a sit down, I advised her that more structure was necessary… Read more »

Holly W.
Guest
Holly W.

As a mom of two sons who have both been through the two-year-old phase recently, I certainly agree with Amalah’s “change the situation” plan. But I think it’s for slightly different reasons. My oldest was an angel two-year-old – always doing what we asked and hardly ever a trantrum. My younger, now 2.5-year-old exhibits many of these same behaviors. Interestingly, my older son is much more intense and acts out more if the situation makes him uncomfortable, while my younger is very, very chill. But he’s two. He thinks hitting is funny, or at least gets him attention. He sees… Read more »

Paige
Guest
Paige

I’m so glad the commenters have responded to this. I was so sad to read the letter and the response. Two year olds don’t share, they’re not quiet, they require constant supervision. That doesn’t make them mean or rude or disrepectful, that makes them two. Some two year olds are worse than others and most of that is pure luck and personality and not a product of parenting styles. I encourage you to stop the arrangement not because of him but because the child should not be spending so much time with someone who dislikes him. And I guarantee he… Read more »

Cheryl S.
Guest
Cheryl S.

Another vote for getting this child a new daycare environment.  It is obvious from the tone of the letter that the caregiver doesn’t like this kid.  That’s just sad. And if that is the case (and it sure sounds like it is) it is terribly unfair to the poor little boy.   Yes, he might have issues. yes, he might be spoiled. Yes, he might be totally different from the caregiver’s kids. But, he might just be 2 and have a mom who is exhausted.    For the sake of the child, stop watching him. Let the mom put him… Read more »

JMH
Guest
JMH

OP..hang in there! You *did* express your concerns about his behavior to the mom…she did nothing (that you are aware of anyway) You have seen him at home, with his family, acting out and  “All while she still did nothing but sigh” At some point, you need to take care of YOUR kids and YOUR family and YOUR home. Don’t even worry about all these other comments…I completely agree with Amalah’s response on this one. Time to let this child move on to a different daycare setting. (And I am a mom of 2 and an elementary teacher)

Kim
Guest
Kim

I’m not sure where all the negativity towards the OP is coming from.  These are normal 2yo behaviors, sure, but you work with those behaviors and you expect the kid to respond.  And again, she has had 4  2yo’s of her own – this ain’t her first rodeo.
I have special needs kids – I know the frustration of needing other parents to cut my kid some slack – as does Amy herself!  But this is an uphill battle, and it’s not going to get better.  I think her advice is spot on.