5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Babysitting

I’ve been babysitting for awhile now, but when I first started there were a few things that just totally escaped me. I wish I’d known that being hyper-vigilant and strict didn’t make me a good babysitter, and I wish I’d known that while some things in the job change, most things don’t. So, here I am, explaining the top five things I personally wish I would have known when I first started out, so that you all don’t have to struggle like I did.

Toddlers are flexible.

I mean physically flexible, don’t go getting any ideas that you’re not operating under the tiny dictator’s schedule. So flexible, in fact, that you may find yourself wondering “How on earth did you wedge yourself behind the couch like that? Are elbows supposed to bend that way?”
The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Toddlers do some many strange things every day that it’s basically a requirement to be as flexible as a circus performer. They’re learning, and the we that kids learn is through experience. They don’t know what will happen if the climb into the five inch tall space beneath their bed until they try it. Basically, If they’re doing backflips off the dining room table you might want to put a stop to that; aside from that, take a breath there, champ. It’s all gonna be okay.

The counting method really does work.

Remember the sheer terror you felt as a kid when your mom would start counting to three? I tell you what, nothing put the fear of God into my heart quite like hearing my mom count when I was doing something I clearly should not have been doing.

So, if the child you’re watching is misbehaving, I challenge you to begin counting. Most of the time, you don’t even have to know what exactly you’re going to do if you get to three because by the time you get there, chances are that the behavior has stopped. It’s like we’re all just born knowing to fear our mothers/caretakers getting to the number three—nobody wants to know what happens after three! I’m serious. Try it.

Sometimes, there’s not much you can do about a kid’s attitude.

Kids get themselves all worked up for lots of different reasons; maybe they’re tired maybe they’re hungry, or, maybe they’re just feeling particularly ornery that day. Life is really overwhelming when you’re little and can’t do much about any situation you’re in. It can be really tough not to lose your patience, but seriously, take a breath.

Try talking to the child calmly and gently. Ask what’s going on, see if there’s anything you can do to help—maybe they’re missing mom and dad or some special toy that they love. Usually, it’s as easy as that.

Eating with children should definitely be used as some form of torture.

I’m serious. Mad props to the parents who eat with their children multiple times a day, or even just at dinner. First of all, only a small portion of what you’ve prepared for them will actually be consumed because there’s nothing those little guys love moe than making messes. I’m talking spaghetti sauce on the ceiling, Cheerios crumbled to a fine dust in their high chairs, and unrecognizable piles of partially eaten gunk on the floor, no kidding messes. Honestly, it’s impressive. It really is better to follow the OP method of just stripping the kid down to their diaper and calling it a day—there’s no sense in ruining ANOTHER outfit for their mom to wash.

Babies don’t just stop living their lives because you’re changing their diaper.

On top of the fact that they just don’t stop squirming while you’re changing them, sometimes they do the unthinkable thing and legitimately just pee on the table (if you’re lucky), or on you (which is much more likely). I know you’re thinking “Oh, that’ll never happen to me.” I’m here to tell you that you, my friend, are wrong. I used to be like you, then when I was about fifteen I was peed on for the very first time. I foolishly believed that I could prevent it from ever happening again. Spoiler alert: it did happen again. Even after I started using the “tried and true” method of covering the child with a fresh diaper or wipe. The unfortunate truth of babysitting is that pee happens and you just have to roll with it.