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Fatherly Advice: How to Find a Good Babysitter

There are many different ways to find a babysitter for the first date night after having a baby, but the most important part should be making sure they can keep a baby safe.

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“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

Hey Fatherly,

I’ve started barbecuing a lot this summer and I am an unapologetic carnivore. The other day my preschool daughter asked me where steak comes from and I was at a loss. Should I just tell her it’s from a dead cow?

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Craig
Chicago, Illinois

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Every dad who has ever faced follow-up questions after throwing a cow-part on the grill feels your pain, Craig. I was actually considering becoming a vegetarian myself just to avoid a similar questions from my 5-year-old. But I like sausage too much. Also, it turns out that honesty is the best policy and I didn’t want to lie about who I am as an eater. I consume animals and I like it.

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That said, the last thing you probably want to do is reveal to your daughter that the meat she is eating once roamed placidly across sun-soaked pastures (or worse, crowded filthy livestock pens). And I’m not, by any means, suggesting you engage in a family screening of Food Inc., or taking your kid to any remaining Chicago slaughterhouses. Instead, consider being honest in an age-appropriate way that fits with your kid’s temperament.

I mean, some kids (my 7-year-old for instance) will want and be able to deal with, the gory details of meat production. Other’s will blanch at even considering a piece of meat once had a pulse. You know your kid’s temperament. So base your answers about meat on what you think your kid can handle.

Importantly, you should avoid telling lies or obfuscating the truth. Because one lie begets another lie and eventually the kid will learn the truth, maybe in a less than gentle manner. That will erode trust towards you and maybe put her off your steaks for good. And if your kid does decide to stop eating meat, just let her be for awhile. Cajoling her or forcing her to eat meat will only make things worse. Take a breath and find other sources of protein for her. It will be okay.

Besides, that means more meat for you!

 

Fatherly,

I think my wife and I are finally ready to go out on a date. Our son, James, is a year old. But since he’s still just a baby, we’re super nervous about how to find a good babysitter. Any tips?

Anthony
Denver, Colorado

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What I hear you asking, Anthony, is how you can find an affordable babysitter, who is totally not creepy and won’t attempt to seduce you and take the place of your wife in a murderous rampage. Luckily, good babysitters aren’t terribly hard to find and they are far less murderous than the Lifetime movie channel would have you believe. Not that I watch the Lifetime movie channel. Stop judging me.

I know most people are warned against meeting strangers on the internet, but there are some exceptions when it comes to babysitters. Most sites that look to connect parents to babysitters have a serious vetting process and allow other parents to rate a sitter’s performance. But if you are going another route, you need to have some non-negotiable requirements.

First, you should expect that a babysitter knows infant and baby CPR. It’s crucial not just for your kid, but for your own state of mind. You should also consider whether or not the potential sitter seems genuinely enthusiastic to be around your kid. This is something that’s pretty easy to figure out. And if you get a weird vibe, there is nothing wrong with finding someone else. Don’t feel pressured, due to reservations, tickets or politeness to leave your baby with someone who is giving off a sketchy vibe. You will not enjoy your night and you might be putting your baby at risk. In fact, it might be better to have the sitter stop by for a quick meet and greet a day or two prior to your date.

If you’re wondering about rates, you’re in luck. At between $13 and $14 dollars an hour, Colorado has one of the more affordable going rates for babysitters in the country. So plan accordingly. If you want to make payment easy, try to find a babysitter who will accept mobile payments. Otherwise be sure and get cash before heading out on the date so you don’t have to scramble to an ATM on the way home.

Finally, know that the first date after a baby will be a tad nerve-wracking. You will be nervous about leaving your kid. You will talk about your baby constantly. You will probably want to go home and sleep because you forgot how tiring it is to go out and enjoy yourself. These things happen. Just do your best to relax and rest easy knowing you have a non-homicidal babysitter who totally knows CPR and isn’t planning to sew chaos in your home life. After all, life is actually nothing like the plot of 2014’s made for TV hit Nanny Cam.

 

Hi Fatherly,

My little girl is in Kindergarten and she has a tendency to get super angry. She refuses to stay in time out and she won’t stay in her room to cool down. Can we just lock her in there? Even if it’s just for a minute and we’re right by the door?

Justin
Spokane, Washington

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The short and brusque answer to your questions, Justin, is that you should never lock a kid in their room. Ever. It just isn’t safe. But there is more to the answer, the most important of which is what to do instead.

But first, let me say again. It just isn’t safe. Sure you might be beside the door, but you want to have eyes on your kid if they’re in such a heightened emotional state. She could hurt herself out of view. That would be a terrible thing for both of you. Moreover, a kid locked in a room is a red flag for child-protective services and is, in some cases against fire code.

More than safety is concerned, it simply isn’t a viable disciplinary strategy. Locking a door between you and your child is an act of deprivation and is meant to play on her fear of separation. What you should be focused on during discipline is reparation and togetherness.

The thing is that your daughter’s anger is an anti-social behavior. You don’t cure that by making her even less social and locking her away. In fact, child psychologists who are proponents of the time-out strategy suggest that parents keep the kid in the same area as the rest of the family. Their time-out is actually time next to the parent rather than being separated. They should be asked to be quiet and still and think about what they’ve done, but they should do it as part of the family.

It’s also important to note that timeouts shouldn’t happen when a kid is raging. The point of a timeout is to think about what happened, what would have been the better choice, and how to repair the relationship. None of these things can happen when a kid is keyed up. That means waiting to discipline until a kid calms down. Getting there might mean hanging with your daughter and modeling good calm breathing, talking to her in a calm voice and being at her level. When the anger cools you can move to a timeout where she is close and actually thinking about what happened.

Will she stay put? Maybe. Maybe not. But if she does move, place her back in her seat calmly and gently. Do it over and over again until she gets the picture. It might take awhile, but that’s parenting for you.

Of course, it’s possible that your desire to lock your daughter in her room stems from wanting to separate yourself from her because you’re getting too emotional. In that case, it’s okay to ask your partner to take over and go take some deep breaths. If you’re alone and fear you might lose control, then definitely step away. Nobody can discipline when they are cranked to 11.

Just keep those doors open.