Sitter's Handbook

I saw a teenager tending to a little … person in the supermarket today. The person in question was, as a psychologist would say nicely, testing the limits of adult authority. The poor teen was completely at a loss, and it occurred to me that I probably would be, too, with a hobgoblin like that in my charge.

The problem with kids is, how do you discipline them without warping the little buggers? Or alarming the DSS? Time outs don’t really weigh heavily against the brainstem-seated selfishness that the wee people struggle with. To take away their pudding, you first have to give them pudding. Grounding doesn’t work until they’re old enough to actually have someplace to go.

So I figure, let the teeming millions speak. Surely we have enough collective centuries of childhood here to put together a manual of creative…let us say “ramifications” that parents have used to keep supermarket candy bars in their racks, tiny canines out of other kids’ arms, and noise pollution to a level below that which causes whales to beach. I myself have produced nothing beyond the chromosome-package stage and somehow, my own memories are a blank on this topic: Either I was a perfect angel or I was licentiously spoiled, but I remember few punishments from my youth.

So drawing on your experiences as child and, perhaps, childer, tell those of us who are childest, what works best?

I used to use the whole ‘If you don’t behave yourself, I’m gonna tell your parents on you’ technique. This worked most of the time, and there were only a few cases where the parents had no control either, and there was no fear. Then the kids just laughed in my face, for the most part. God I don’t miss the baby-sitting days…

Well, Pammipoo already said it, but I second her advice. I’d also like to reprint the dialogue from a “For Better or For Worse” strip that I wish like anything I’d seen when I was a teenager.

Michael was 16 or so, and was called on to babysit the neighbors’ three obstreperous kids. He’d had a hard time with them before, but he’d come up with a plan this time.

Kids: Die sucker! We’re stayin’ up and you can’t stop us!

Mike: Fine with me.

Kids: We’re gonna eat pop and chips and stay up aaalll night!

Mike: Go for it…Don’t mind me; I’m just writing down everything you do, and the time you do it. 'Case your parents want to know what goes on when they’re not here.

In bedroom: Kid 1: Let’s tell mom not to get Mike anymore!

Kid 2: Yeah, he’s too old to be a sitter!

I guess the main thing is, much as you don’t want to be overly harsh with children, the fact remains that they’re not paying you; their parents are.