Advice for Caregivers

Q & A: The children are mistreating me - what do I do?

by Martha Scully

One day a while ago, we received this question from a Toronto babysitter:

“I’m working for a family that has 2 children, 3 and 5. The 3 year old is adorable, charming, and overall a great kid. The 5 year old is a completely different story. In the last week alone, he has purposely spit in my face more than a handful of times. I want to quit the job, but I really don’t want to leave the family without care for the rest of the summer. How can I handle this?”

I recommend that you speak with the parent(s) immediately – without the children present. Most parents will have a strong reaction to this type of behaviour, and it’s likely that they are experiencing the same thing from the child. Both you and the parent(s) should try to talk to the child and determine the cause of his actions. What is triggering this behaviour? Is he looking for a reaction from you that you are giving him?

Discuss a punishment/consequence with the parent(s) in response to this behaviour, and ensure that you are both committed to following through. Be sure to openly discuss this with parent(s) on a regular basis, keeping each other updated on any progress made. Provide the child with regular, positive attention when he is doing positive things.

If you and the parent(s) continue to have this issue, I recommend using a parenting tool called “Triple P – Positive Parenting Program”. I have personally used this tool with families I have worked with previously, as well as with my own children, and feel that it is a great tool. For more information, please go to

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About the Author
Martha Scully
Martha is the founder of Martha has been featured as a Child Care Expert in hundreds of publications across Canada including The Globe and Mail, CBC, Today's Parent and The National Post, She lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters.