23/11/2009 03:19 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Ask Joanne - Son Won't Settle For Babysitter

What's your biggest challenge about life as a parent? Our experienced life coach Joanne Mallon is here to help with practical support. Send your question in to this email address and say if you'd like your name changed.

Sam asks:

My son is totally freaked out and upset by the idea of babysitters. He's 4 and a half and totally fine about going to school/ separating from me or his dad at other times. But at bedtime only we will do and he gets quite hysterical about it all. I've tried all sorts to no avail. What do you suggest?

Here's life coach Joanne's reply:

Dear Sam

We have covered separation anxiety quite a lot here on ParentDish, as it does seem to be something that's relatively common.

Given your son's age, I'm guessing that he has only recently started school. Many children take their time to adapt to change in their routine, so whilst he may have adapted well to a change in his daytime life, when it comes to bedtime he's telling you he's had enough.

This is very likely a passing phase that will improve - in a few years he'll be waving you off as he goes on sleepovers to his friends' houses. Some parents might choose to spend this phase not going out, or at least only going out after their child is asleep.

When my daughter was small, I remember going out one night when Granny was babysitting. Daughter had the mother of all tantrums as we left and had to be physically wrenched off me. I spent the whole night feeling bad about leaving her, thinking about how distraught she was. But Granny had brought along her video camera, and had filmed my daughter after we left. What a revelation - she was the picture of happiness, playing with her toys without a care in the world. The whole tantrum was a performance to express her displeasure at being left. And there is a good side to the fact that our children react like this. Your son loves you, he doesn't want you to go, and he's expressing it in a very vocal manner. Because it's the evening and he's tired, he resorts to the kind of tantrums you hoped he'd left behind. But as you know, there is no point in being swayed by tantrums as it only sends the message to your child that they can get what they want by kicking off.

Personally, I would not let this kind of behaviour stop me from going out. In your situation I would tell my son well in advance (perhaps the day before or in the morning) that there will be a babysitter. This way he has more time to adjust and perhaps to express his displeasure.

Listen to him and show that you understand that he misses you, but the bottom line is that you will still be going out. Emphasise the good parts of having a babysitter - maybe he'll get an extra bedtime story, or get to stay up 10 minutes later. Don't get into negotiations with him - stay firm, he'll get the message, and eventually this phase will pass.

Best wishes


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