Can I discipline the child I babysit?

February 12th, 2013 posted by Family Corner Staff

Photo Copyright Amanda Formaro/The Family 1998, 1999, 2000


“I babysit a friends little girl three days a week. While the child is with me she is very good, a perfect little angel. When her mom is around she becomes a totally different person. She smacks her mother in the face, raises her voice and screams at her the moment she walks through the door. She also smacks my youngest child but only in her mothers presence. Her mother says all she does is scream that she doesnt want to go to my house in the morning, and in the evening when it is time to go home all she does is scream all the way home because she doesnt want to leave my home. When this child is in my home do I still have the right to discipline her, even in her mother’s presence? My children do not get away with acting this way, it shocks them how much she gets away with. Last week she smacked my child in the face as hard as she could, then her mother smacked her hand. Immediately afterward she took her daughter’s hand and kissed it and said she was sorry. I could not believe it. Her mother has given me permission to discipline the child any way that I see fit, including spanking. But I never have to. The child is only 2 years old and only behaves this way in the presence of her mother. Please help!”

~ Desperate

Answers from our members:


I agree with maintaining your authority in your house. But this does not mean hitting in any fashion, with the moms presence or not in her presence. There are laws in United States as a baby-sitter against hitting a child (your child or another persons child). If you need information on the laws contact your local department of children and family services (DCFS Rules). As a baby-sitter your are supposed to watch out for the children, you don’t know the repercussions of your actions. You have an obligation to protect the children from harm. This means timeout or no TV or the toy she likes. No hitting. If the child you baby-sit hits your child you should send her to timeout even if the mother is present. Otherwise have her coat, shoes, and whatever else on the child waiting for the mother on the couch and as soon as Mom arrives send her out the door. If the mother cannot discipline or control her child then it is time for that child to leave your home. After all what are you showing your children. Remember the golden rule: “They Do As You Do”.


I think you should maintain your authority, even in the mothers presence.After all it is with you the child will be most of the time. I don’t suggest spanking someone else’s child but a firm tone of voice and maybe a punishment would do. You should also speak to the mother because she cannot send ambiguous messages to her daughter. When she is bad and gets spanked it should be left at that. Maybe together you and her mom can come up with a solution. Good luck.


I had the same problem with a 3 year old I was caring for. The child is confused about who’s in charge at the time of her mother’s return from work, she’s testing to see if you will do anything. Do something. Treat her just like you do the rest of the day. Talk to her mom frankly about what your rules of the day are and your spanking offenses. And no 2 is not to young to spank, but don’t use your hand our hands are for loving and comforting, besides you don’t get very far if you say “Stop that or I’ll get the hand.” You will find that you will not have to spank as often as people think. If you are consistent in your discipline. Children want to know their limits or should I say your limits, set them and stick with it. My children are 17, 12 and 5 I have raised them basically the same way. It’s always better to be more strict than lenient, you can let up if you rethink and change your mind about something, you don’t have anywhere to go if you’ve already let it slide once. By the way, the little girl I had, well we had to move and I couldn’t care for her anymore but when I left I loved her like a daughter and visa versa. And her mom thanked me for taking those stands and beliefs, and also for talking with her about dealing with her child. Hang in there and stick by those guns.


As much as I hate to say this, it sounds like this little girl is not only testing her limits, but is angry that mommy leaves her everyday. Working parents have it very hard these days. Many would like to be able to stay home with their kids. For some it is just not possible and what tends to happen is the parents get a guilty conscience and let their kids get away with more than they should. I know this because I worked for many years and did this exact thing. I felt horribly guilty leaving my kids in daycare all day, even though I loved my job, I knew that they missed me and resented it. 🙁 It was a very tough thing to go through. It’s been 2 years since I left the workforce and have seen a big difference in my kids. I am far from a perfect parent and will never claim to be better than anyone who has to work. I feel bad for this mom and little girl. But, all that aside, I agree with what has been said here. This little girl is testing her limits with you and the mom. This is the age, after all, for testing. They start to venture out of their baby realm and discover the boundaries around them and see how far they can push. Unfortunately, because mom feels guilty, she is allowing her daughter to venture outside of the boundaries. First she punishes then she kisses her hand. That’s her guilt sinking in, she sees her baby’s eyes well up with tears, thinks how she has been gone all day and then breaks down and gives in. It’s the hardest job in the world isn’t it? SIGH Yes, discipline her, and in front of her mother, let her and her mother know that is not tolerated. Good luck, I hope you can work this out! hugs


I baby-sat many toddlers over the years. Many would act up just when their parent came in the door. One little boy would pull leaves off my plants, slap his father’s leg, and run into my older daughter’s bedroom, all things he knew he shouldn’t do. I think part of it was he was 1/2 mad at his father for leaving him with me, and the other part was he wanted to see who the REAL BOSS was. Finally I said to him, Nick, you know you can’t do that any other time, so why do it when your Dad comes in the door? That surprised him, his father would then correct Nick’s behavior and it really seemed to help. Also I would pretty much know when his father was coming and I would have him put his coat and shoes on and wait in a chair by the door. Less hassle time!


You need to make it very clear to both the mother and the child that while she is in your home the rules still apply-whether Mommy is present or not. Until the child exits your home, you are in charge, and certain behaviors will not be tolerated. Also, the mother should be advised that this type of behavior will not be permitted in your home – ever. Maybe she will get a clue from your handling of the child as she obviously has no control over the child herself if the child is hitting her in the face. This rule should apply to ANY child who enters your home. In my home, parents are advised that when their children come to visit, my rules apply such as eating what you are given for dinner as I will not make special meals because a child is a picky eater. The children will eat the same items as the adults unless there is a known allergy to an ingredients. The child must eat at least three good mouthfuls of any item to qualify as having eaten it. The reverse is also true when my daughter visits another persons home, their rules would apply to her. Parents need to get over the misconception that they are the only ones who can raise their child, and that they can let their kids do whatever they want in someone else’s home.


Absolutely you have the right to discipline this child in your home, even in front of her mother, if she does something that is unacceptable in your home. Certainly if the child is hitting your own children, you want her to know that it is inappropriate, and if her own mother disciplines her and then negates it, the discipline isn’t going to be effective. The child’s issue is obviously with her mother and not with you, since she behaves when her mother is not around. She is not only testing her mother’s limits, however; she is testing your limits when she misbehaves in *your* home when her mother is there. She may be only two years old, but she obviously thinks you won’t discipline her in front of her mother, or she wouldn’t act the way she does when her mother picks her up. You also don’t want to teach your children that you won’t allow them to do certain things, but those rules do not apply to other children when they visit your home. That double standard will cause a lot of fights and headaches if you don’t fix it now. I admit, I wasn’t thrilled about my friends disciplining my toddler in their home until my son got in the habit of trying to pull electrical cords out of the wall outlets. After my friend John disciplined him for trying to unplug a fan, for the umpteenth time, he was somewhat subdued around John for several days, but he quickly got over it. My son gets really excited to see his “Uncle John” and enjoys playing with him, and he doesn’t play with electrical cords anymore! Just remember to be firm, not angry, and to explain the reasons for the discipline, to the child and her mother. Explain that you don’t allow that type of behavior in your home from any young person, including the ones who live in your house. If your friend needs an analogy, tell her your family doesn’t potty in your pool and you don’t expect anyone else to, either! Or your family doesn’t smoke in your home and you won’t allow anyone else to….. You get the idea. Good luck!

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