Politeness and Your Toddler

Babysitter Blues


My new babysitter -- whom I like very much -- told me that my 3-year-old was horribly rude to her the last few times she sat for him. He said things such as, "I hate you! You're ugly!" and stuck out his tongue. I'm mortified about this behavior. How can I teach my son to be more polite when I'm not there?


When Mom and Dad are away, it's fun to push the boundaries of other adults -- particularly if you're 3. If you haven't done so before, now is the time to set some babysitting rules for your child to follow. He's in preschool now and is old enough to understand that some behaviors are simply not acceptable. Write a list of rules, such as "No mean words," on a colored piece of paper, and place it where your child can see it. Then explain what each rule is and why he needs to follow it. For example, you could say "Telling Emily she's ugly hurts her feelings. We don't want to make people we like feel bad." Don't worry that he can't read yet -- the visual presence of the paper will serve as a reminder.

The next time you have your sitter over, ask your child to apologize, and remind him of the new rules. Also let the sitter know what they are, that she can use them when she needs them, and that you want a full report on your son's behavior when you get home (say this in front of your son to underscore the point). Berk suggests building in some extra time before you go out for the three of you to play. If you show your son that the sitter is someone you like and trust, he's more likely to like her and want to please her, she adds. Hopefully, these strategies will help curb your child's behavior -- and save your relationship with your sitter.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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